Deck Reviews

Oracle Deck Review: The Wild Unknown Archetypes Deck and Guidebook

October 15, 2019

The Wild Unknown Archetypes Deck and Guidebook is the newest deck and book set from Kim Krans, creator of popular decks The Wild Unknown Tarot and The Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck  (my review of that deck here). I was very happy to hear that this one was also being published by HarperOne because they do such a beautiful job on these sets.

The Box Set
There is a title sleeve that slides off to reveal the main box with a magnetic closure which houses the book and deck (which is itself housed in another circular box). A lot of deck/book sets fail in this area, but kudos to Harper One for attention to detail here. You have a book and deck that fit snugly in a sturdy box together, and then you have a sturdy inner box, should you wish to separate the deck and take it with you. Each of the boxes have a ribbon for easy removal of the contents. In fact, the main box's ribbon wraps under the deck box and then again under the book, so both of them are easily removed. I love that the inner box is round like the deck, and it fits the deck perfectly. Unfortunately, both the front and back book covers are creased already, with very minimal use and great care. But otherwise, the deck, book, and housing are all top quality.

The Cards
There are 78 cards in this gorgeous deck, which feels like a nod to the tarot, though the deck is an oracle. The cards are really large, measuring 4.5" in diameter. The cardstock is nice and thick, slightly flexible with a smooth matte finish. They are not easy to shuffle, being so large and round. The backs feature a diamond pattern. Her previous two decks have the same pattern on the backs, with different colors, and I would have loved to see that carry over to this deck, making them feel like more of a set.

The cards are numbered with Roman numerals which kinda sucks when you have 78 cards. I'd much rather see "48" than "XLVIII". It would make it so much easier to look up the card in the book if they were numbered normally. The Roman numerals do give the deck a more artistic feel I suppose.

The deck is based on archetypes chosen by the artist. She talks in the book about how hard it was to select 78 archetypes and the process she went through to cull them down (from about 250!). I can't even imagine how hard that must have been, but she did an amazing job with her selections!

There are four "suits" in the deck: The Selves (30 cards), The Places (20 cards), The Tools (20 cards), and The Initiations (8 cards). There is no indication on the cards themselves as to which suit they belong to. I'm glad they didn't add a suit indication to each card because it would add unnecessary clutter to the cards. Once you get to know the deck, it becomes pretty self-explanatory which suit each card belongs to.

There are a few sets of cards that have counterparts, which I always love: Mother/Father, Crone/Shaman, Maiden/Mother/Crone, Creator/Sustainer/Destroyer (though I found it odd that the order of the cards in the deck is Creator-Destroyer-Sustainer).

The cards feature a mixture of artwork and collage. Many of the collage images are crudely cut out, which I find an interesting choice. There are only a few cards (five, I think?) that are artwork alone, featuring no collage work. Since most of the cards include collage cut-outs, the deck differs from the artist's previous two decks but they still flow together very well. I have only used the three together once so far, but I could tell from that one reading that using the three decks together would make for really in-depth readings since they each bring something different to the table. They address such different aspects of life while remaining artistically cohesive.

There are some collage images that I can't quite make out, but it doesn't really bother me. I really like the combination of collage work with line drawing and watercolor. It's just beautiful. Many of the cards' colors are breathtaking. While there are some bright cards in the deck, on the whole it has a dark shadowy vibe to me, which I like.

Something that really stood out to me in the deck was the plethora of hand images. I just flipped through the cards really quickly and counted 30 cards with collaged hands.

My favorite card is The Queen. The colors are just so striking, it pulls me in every time. I also love The Bardo, with the skulls circling the artwork. Some other favorites are The Orphan (both the card's imagery and the archetype), The Poet, The Venom, The Siren and The Maiden. The deck is a delightful feast for the eyes, for sure!

There are a couple of cards (The Underworld and The Gem) that feature worms that I recognize from The Wild Unknown Tarot (5 & 9 of Swords). I loved this, it was like seeing an old friend!

My least favorite card in the deck is The Comic. It is really creepy which is ironic since it's meant to be a card of lightheartedness. (And I'm normally a big fan of creepy, but this is not creepy in a good way. It's a disturbing creepy.) It's a collage image of a cat with holes cut out of its eyes, revealing a set of uneven, disoriented, distorted human eyes beneath. And one eye cut-out is larger than the other, looking droopy. It is very disturbing. Yet the message of the card is one of laughter. This card completely missed the mark for me.

There are some cards where the imagery isn't directly symbolic of the archetype. There's a card called The Kiss which features holding hands, and I wonder why lips weren't chosen instead. I understand it's a metaphor, but with archetypes, you're looking for simple symbols that represent an idea, so I'd think lips here would be a more obvious symbolic choice. In The Castle card, there is no castle, no abode whatsoever. Instead, there's a closed eye and a rose in a pearl square. Made no sense to me. But reading the book passage allowed me to stretch my imagination and see the correlation between the images on the card and the archetype of a castle. So there are some cards that are not so obvious in their imagery and your mind has to make that leap. And there are some cards that I still don't quite get, but in those cases I just use the archetype title as my focus.

Another small thing I noticed was in The Initiations suit, the card orientation becomes confusing. You have to choose whether you read the number or the card name upright. I choose the card name, and that's also the way the cards are oriented in the book. But that makes the images in the Eros and Kairos cards sideways, which isn't ideal.

There is a card called Apocolypse, and I don't know if it is a typo or if it is spelled that way on purpose. There is no explanation. It is spelled that way on the card and in the book passage several times, with it being spelled "apocalypse" only once.

The imagery in the deck is quite striking and dark with just the right amount of colorful splash here and there. There are a lot of archetypes I didn't expect to find and those delighted me. For example, The Orphan, The Sustainer, The Siren, The Starborn, The Dead End, The Empty Room, The Bardo, The Riddle, The Venom, The Thread, and really all of The Initiations suit. The deck is jam packed with wonderful and creative archetypes. There is much to unpack here. I think that Krans did a spectacular job with the archetypes she chose for the deck. There were so many surprises for me and such a wide variety of people, places and things in the deck to work with and explore in one's life.

How it Reads
My first draw with this deck was paired with a card from each of the other TWU decks, giving me a lot to unpack in one reading. The Archetype card (one of The Selves suit) really underlined the core issue.

My second reading was a one-card pull and with this one I had decided to play around a little with the orientation of the card as it was drawn. The card (The Seed, from The Tools suit) was turned over at a right angle. I never read with reversals, but I thought I'd dabble a little with these. In my mind, I saw the cards as moons. Upright is the full moon, the card's full potential. Reversed - new moon energy: dark, shadow, lacking. And anywhere in between illustrative of waning and waxing energies, the degree dependent upon the angle of the card. The Seed was turned over exactly midway in waxing energy, gaining steady momentum, moving towards sprouting. Something was working its way towards sprouting. It needed to be nurtured and left to grow, not uprooted to check on its progress. Patience and faith were needed at that stage. And that was something I really needed to know.

The next day I drew two cards, The Vow and The Warrior. The message I received was: What promise have you made that requires fighting for now? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to uphold that vow, no matter how hard it's become? I believe promises should never be made lightly or flippantly.  But sometimes you aren't the same person you were when you first made a vow to someone and you have to be willing to let that person (you once were) and that vow go to honor who you are now. Only you know which vows are worth fighting for. And if they are worth fighting for, then give it everything you've got. This message came at just the right time for me.

The next reading I did was using a spread in the guidebook. The spread is called The Inner Quest and was the inspiration for the entire deck. You are meant to separate the deck into the four suits and draw a card from each. I wish I had known that before shuffling the deck. It took a long time to make sure the deck was properly shuffled, as the large round cards don't make for quick shuffling, so I wasn't about to separate them again. And I don't want to do so every time I want to use this spread. So I created a cheat instead. I shuffled, then drew until I turned over a card from each suit, simply setting aside duplicates from the same suit. It's amazing how spot-on the reading was for me. I had doubts when I turned over the last card, but reading the book's passage expanded my perception of the card's archetype and the reading fell in line.

This deck reads really deeply. It packs a punch. It doesn't feel like an ordinary oracle deck. It really delves into the nooks and crannies of your soul and gives you a lot to chew on.

The Book
The book is 223 pages, featuring black and white images of the cards. The font is handwritten like in Krans' other guidebooks. It opens with a Table of Contents with a listing of the cards, separated by suits. The book discusses the creator's process of creating the deck and a few sections on various elements of archetypes. Each of the four suits have a page describing their significance. The book touches briefly on card rotation and suggests that a card that is not exactly upright might be read as "off track" in some way.

There are five spreads in the book:

  • Follow the Image (One Card Reading)
  • Summon the DivineRoot, Heart, Crown. A simplified 3-card chakra reading.
  • The Inner Quest: Who, Where, With What, Why (a 4-card reading). This is the one I referenced above, using one card from each of the suits. (The card positions sound like the board game Clue... "It was The Judge in the Empty Room with The Sword!") Ha! But seriously, this reading was really a good one, giving such a well-rounded and all-encompassing answer to the inquiry.
  • The Axis Mundi (5 cards). This one is like a condensed Celtic Cross.
  • The Heroine's Journey (5 cards). Based on Joseph Campbell's story arc of the Hero's Journey.

Each card has a two-page spread in the book. On the left page is a black and white image of the card. On the right page is all the information on the card. On the top of the page is the card's name followed by a few keywords. There is then a paragraph of information on the archetype. On the bottom of the page are three tidbits: When Light, When Dark, and Go Deeper (examples of each below).

The Mother
When Light: glowing, generative, creative, nurturing
When Dark: dim, exhausted, controlling, limiting
Go Deeper: read "Tao Te Ching" (chapter 1), and imagine The Mother of Ten Thousand Things.

There are also snippets of information along the sides of the page where you have to turn the book first left then right to read them. While I appreciate the author using up as much space as possible, providing more content, it is annoying to have to turn the book to and fro to read it. I'd much rather read it normally, in vertical columns, or the main text could have expanded into those margins giving room for the extra text.

I have not read the entire book yet, but the passages I did read helped me understand the archetypes better. I love the added "Go Deeper" suggestions, as it leads you further and further down the rabbit hole. There are many ways to use this deck that will enable you to explore depths you hadn't thought of. I can't think of another deck that does this.

Final Thoughts
Aside from the obvious observation that this deck is really gorgeous, it is unlike any other oracle. It really does go where no other deck goes. It doesn't read like a predictive oracle, but rather a self-exploratory one. On its own, using a card from each suit, you can get a very deep reading from it. Used in conjunction with other decks, it would lend a valuable added layer to any reading. Obviously, my first choice would be to pair it with the other TWU decks. Even though I've only used this deck for a short time, and I love all three TWU decks, this one is now my favorite of the three for the depth it offers.

If you would like to see all the cards, I have a flip-through of all 78 cards on my IGTV on Instagram (@thebohemianess).

Deck: The Wild Unknown Archetypes Deck and Guidebook by Kim Krans, published by HarperOne.

Deck Reviews

Oracle Deck Review: Saltwater Reading Cards

June 11, 2018

The unique Saltwater Reading Cards revolve specifically around the saltwater flora and fauna life of Indigenous Australia. The deck was created by Laura Bowen and is published by Rockpool Publishing.

The Cards
The deck and book come housed in a lovely, sturdy outer box that opens magnetically. There is a cardboard insert that holds the card, but I have removed mine, because it is easier to access the cards without it.

There are 36 cards in the deck, measuring "3.75" x 5.5". They are quite large but easy enough to shuffle due to their flexible card stock. They have a very glossy finish. The backs feature a blue and white fish design which isn't reversible, but difficult to tell which end is up. There is a large light blue border around the cards, with a subtle dotted design. Within the border is the card number and name (on top) and a keyword (on bottom).

The artwork in this deck is so unique and refreshing. The majority of the surfaces of the artwork are comprised of dots. The colors are so bold and vibrant, it is a joy to just look at the cards.

Despite the very specific area this deck covers, there is great variety in the characters in the cards. There are birds, fish, shells, mammals, reptiles, invertebrates, habitats, and more.  I love the cards like Tides and Rough Seas, because they add an even wider reach to the deck.

Visually, my favorite cards are Shark, Tides, Jellyfish, Dugong and Manta Ray. My favorite animal is the manatee, and I have several decks that feature dugongs, to which I always say to myself, "close enough"!

How it Reads
My first reading with this deck was a single card, but incredibly poignant. I had found out that day that the hospice patient I was caring for had passed away the day before, just hours after I had left him. I was very sad and wished I had been there for his passing. I drew the Sea Shells card soon after hearing the news. From the book: "Sea Shells were all once home to the different sea creatures that lived inside them. Once the creatures have moved on, outgrown or been eaten, their shell will make its way to rest, empty upon the sand, carried there by the waves." I couldn't help but see the metaphor of this man's shell, his human body, being left behind when he was done with it, as he returned to spirit. The card is meant to be about inner guidance, but it had a distinctly different, very specific and special meaning for me that day.

The next day, I drew Shark, my favorite card, visually, in the deck. It was a kick in the pants for me, telling me to do what needs to be done before someone else takes the reins. Take charge while I can still control the outcome. Eat or be eaten, baby.

I drew the beautiful Tides card one day. I had once tried tracking my moods and energy levels with the cycles of the moon for a few months, but it only proved that I am unpredictable and not at the mercy of the moon or my menstrual cycle, as no patterns emerged. So when I pulled this card, I decided instead to zoom out and see if my moods flowed more on a seasonal cycle. I definitely harbor ill will toward summer and have a life-long love affair with Autumn. But it interested me to see if my moods and energy levels are decidedly different when each season rolled around. Perhaps I can be predictable four times a year, if I can't be pinned down on a weekly/monthly basis. It was food for thought.

One day Seahorse flew out of the deck when I was shuffling. Family time with my kids is the best. We were playing a game that day, laughing so hard that I cried. Love that! This card nailed the dynamic that day.

Two days in a row, I drew Starfish. The card is about symbols and synchronicities, so it was fitting that the card itself would come up more than once! At that time, my stalker symbols were volcanoes and peacocks. The Starfish made me pay more attention to what those symbols might mean for me at that point in my life.

The next day I drew Rockpool, which indicates healing saltwater. It was time for an Epsom bath or a pink Himalayan salt bath to relieve my pent-up stress and to release negativity. I love when cards point me in the direction of actual, physical steps to take to better my well being.

I've had Sea Anenomes come up telling me to create safe boundaries during a time when I was being pushed around by immature drama.

I've received the Sea Sponges card several times when I am emotionally overwhelmed, advising me to let my feelings come and go rather than holding on to them, and reminding me not to absorb others' emotions. This card encourages us to feel all of our feels and then let them pass on through, keeping only what nourishes us. Laugh hard and cry hard. Kids do this naturally. The message of this card reminds me of The Sedona Method.

The cards are so comforting, so wise. They give you what you need to hear on any given day in such a kind and gentle way.  I turn to this deck when I want to be given advice that I know will help me feel better right away.

The Book
The 96-page book is really beautiful. It measures 4.75" x 7.25".  The pages are thick and smooth and the images are in full color. The book begins with a Table of Contents. There is an Introduction which discusses the Australian saltwater environment. Next is a section on how to use the cards, including three spreads (One Card Enquiry, a 3-card Sun Cycle Card Reading, and a 5-card New Horizons Card Reading).

The next section is titled Working with Saltwater. It's a lovely two pages on many different ways to work with the energy of saltwater.

The rest of the book is dedicated to the card meanings. The cards are listed in alphabetical order. On the left side is a full-page, full-color, life-size image of the card. On the right side is the card meaning, given in a generous several paragraphs. First you are given a little information on the card subject (whether it be an animal, shell, habitat, etc.) which I really appreciate. Then you are shown what the card means for you in your life and how you can use the information for healing, empowerment, etc.

It's a really lovely and helpful book that compliments the deck wonderfully.

Final Thoughts
This is a very gentle deck that has an easy-going flow to it, very fitting to the watery theme. It would be the perfect deck to bring to the beach, of course, and has a summery vibe to me, but can obviously be used year round, perhaps especially for those in winter who yearn for a taste of summer. Being a water themed deck, it is also a good choice for sensitive or emotional readings. The deck feels relaxing and healing like a warm salt bath. It is now the first deck I think of when I feel out of sorts or sad, and need comfort and emotional healing.

Deck: Saltwater Reading Cards, by Laura Bowen, published by Rockpool Publishing.

Deck Reviews

Oracle Deck Review: The Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck and Guidebook

May 25, 2018

The Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck and Guidebook has been a popular indie deck for years, so when I heard it was picked up by HarperOne for mass publishing, I was so excited! They had done such a beautiful job with The Wild Unknown Tarot that I was over the moon to finally be able to have the accompanying Animal Spirit deck, knowing the publication would be of equally high quality.

The Box Set
The presentation of the deck/book set alone is impressive. The first thing you notice about the Animal Spirit set is the holographic covers of the sleeve and inner card box. They shine like rainbows in the light! The main box has a sleeve that slides off. This box houses the book and smaller box which houses the cards. There is a ribbon in both boxes for easy extraction of the contents. The card box is thick and sturdy with a lift-off lid.

The Cards
The cards measure 2.75" x 4.75" and are printed on a really nice, thick yet flexible card stock with a silky smooth matte finish. They feel so good to the touch and shuffle easily and comfortably. The backs have an image that looks like dragon scales. The design mirrors the backs of the TWU Tarot deck, just with different coloring.

At the top of each card is the suit element symbol. And the symbols for the seven Spirit element cards are holographic! So cool!! At the bottom is the name of the animal.

There are common animals included that you would expect to see in an animal deck (Elephant, Lion) along with some you don't often see (Earthworm, Vulture). There are no domesticated animals in the deck, they are all wild, as the title suggests. There are some repetitive animals/artwork in the deck. The Snake and Sea Serpent are very similar visually. There is a Spider and a Tarantula. There are 3 Eggs. And the Cheetah/Tiger and Elk/Deer pairings are very similar in meaning (Yin/Yang, Masculine/Feminine).

The artwork is lovely, and if you are familiar with the tarot deck by the same creator, you will recognize the lines, coloring and style immediately. The card images really stand out, not only from other decks, but also from each other in a layout, which makes for a visually attractive and clear reading.

There are five elemental suits in this deck. (Fire, Air, Water, Earth, Spirit). Each of the elements are assigned 14 cards, with the exception of the Spirit suit which only has 7, each representing one of the seven main chakras. I found this to be such a wonderful added layer to the cards!

The Elemental Suits feature animals that would naturally appear within those elemental environments. For example, the Air suit features flying animals, the Water suit features creatures found in water, etc. The Spirit suit features mythological creatures, and I so love that these were included in this deck!

It's really hard to pick out favorites in a deck like this because they are all so beautiful, and each animal will be meaningful on different days. Visually, I love the Shark. It exudes fear and danger, with the black and white dotted imagery, and just that splash of red in the shark's mouth.

I love the Unicorn card because I'm a lifelong fan of the creature. I love the wet rainy feeling of the Frog card, and the playful vibe and coloring in the Dolphin card. The use of colors, whether not at all, sparingly or splashed profusely, is brilliant in this deck.

How it Reads
After wanting this deck for so long, my first draw with it was more than just a daily draw. It was also the first character of the group to meet me, a bigger message from the entire herd. I was welcomed to this deck by the Nightingale. It has a strong throat chakra vibe. And I had been walking around with a lump in my throat for weeks, holding a ton of feelings inside, trying to keep it all together. This bird told me to sing. And I do every time I drive. I sang that day in the car with my son and the radio. It is true, singing is therapeutic. My mood is always lifted when I listen to music so I made a note to do that more.  Looking at the bigger picture, I also needed to express myself more. And do some throat chakra work. Maybe also some chanting. There was lots to work with with this first card!

The next day I drew the Lizard, which signified the need to retreat from over-stimulation. And all I could note that day was, "Yes please."

The day after that, I asked what animal energy in me needed to be expressed. I drew the Horse, who said to follow my momentum. It told me that I had the strength to do so. Frankly, at that point in my life, I was really tired of being strong and of the go, go, go. So there were two ways for me to interpret the message. Firstly, in the spirit of the tarot Nine of Wands, maybe this meant that I just had to push a little bit further to get the breakthrough I needed.  Maybe I was almost there, but I couldn't see the finish line through the fog. Maybe the Horse was pushing me those last few steps.

On the other hand, the night before I had had the idea to give up all the Yang action and just surrender everything to the divine. Release, relax and let good vibes take over. So maybe Horse was referring to this new type of momentum. Because ironically, it takes massive strength to "let go and let 'God'". So those were two opposing interpretations, and I decided to let my intuition decide which path the Horse wanted to be expressed through.

The day after drawing the Horse, I drew the Zebra. The horse's non-conforming, eclectic relative, with the message to "just do you". I felt like it was a message not only for me, but for my instagram peeps, for all the hippies, artists, square pegs, visionaries and black sheep: Be unique, be different. Stay weird. Celebrate what makes you literally one of a kind. Funny, the day before, I had been watching a nature show that focused on cuttlefish who can make themselves become zebra-patterned. Zebra energy was strong those couple of days!

Next up was the Beaver, which was definitely on point. The Beaver works very hard for his family. That was me, working 12-hour shifts for the next four days to put food on the table for my kids. I was channeling the Donna Summer song, "She Works Hard for the Money".

My next daily draw was the Sea Serpent, representing the Second Chakra. Expressing your desires, emotions and creativity. When we don't have the freedom of this expression, the imbalances can manifest as blockages and/or overflow/overwhelm. The message I got here was to dare to be open, truthful and authentic.

One day I drew the auspicious Elephant and thought, "Wow, YES, Ganesha is gonna mow down my obstacles! Woot! Finally!" ... and then I got into my new (used) car that I bought a month earlier and the check engine light comes on. And I was like "WTF Ganesha?!" The guidebook says something I had never heard before. That sometimes Ganesha will PUT obstacles in your way to redirect you to a better path. I don't know how having to pay to get my car fixed with money I didn't have was gonna help with that, but okay. There was really nothing left to do at that point but TRUST (which if I recall correctly, is one of the bits of advice in the book for this card. Trust.). Because everything always works out in the end, doesn't it?

One day I pulled a card at my son's request, and he got the Otter, who is all about fun and play. We started singing a Linkin Park song together and danced for the duration. Song and dance are always a good time.

Since the cards are separated into elemental suits, I was able to look back at my week to see the overall elemental theme. I had drawn 1 Air, 3 Fires, 1 Earth, 1 Water and 1 Spirit. So every element was covered with a single card, so nothing lacking, but there was overwhelming Fire energy for me that week. I like this extra layer of contemplation it adds to your readings.

I found no confusing messages in the cards. Either the card of the day made perfect sense to my current situation, or it was a general message that would be wise on any given day, and therefore welcome and helpful, if not targeted.

The Book
Oh, I really loved the book! And normally I don't much care for the books that come with decks, with a few exceptions of course. I know of several people online who only had the indie deck, but not the book. I couldn't understand this, other than assuming they would either look up the spirit energy of the animal as they went, or they made up their own interpretations. Me, I need the book for this one. Even though the book encourages you to connect with the REAL animals the cards represent, I still really like having it as a guide.

I like the handwritten font in the book. (The book wasn't handwritten word by word, but the font used was from a handwritten alphabet, I assume the creator's?).

There are lots of little sections in the book, including working with animal energies, the natural order of the cards, and so much more that I won't cover them all, but I really enjoyed reading every bit of it. I loved reading in the book that all of the animals' energies were within us, and that we aren't limited to one spirit animal. So the popular question, "What's my spirit animal?" could have a different answer every day.

My least favorite thing about the book, and I dislike it quite a lot, is that there is no Table of Contents or Index of the cards. The cards aren't numbered, and they aren't listed in alphabetical order in the book, so you have to search out the card you want every time. It is rather annoying and unnecessarily time consuming.

There is a page on each of the five elements, giving more insight into what it means when you draw cards from each.

There is a really interesting page which encourages you to familiarize yourself with the Apex predators in the deck, as when you draw these, they are fearless powerhouse cards, having no natural predators. Also, two apex predators in the deck from different suits will fight for power. Unfortunately, the author doesn't tell us which of the animals are apex predators! So although it would definitely add another rich layer to reading with these cards, it seems like too much research for me to do on my own, and I really wish she had added that info in the book for us.

Once you get to the card meanings, on the left page is a full size black and white image of the card. On the right page is the name of the animal followed by a few key words/phrases. Then a paragraph is given on the card's meaning. Beneath this is one of my favorite features in the book. Found at the end of each card passage are three tidbits filled with valuable information (examples given below are for the Earthworm card):

  • When in Balance (traits you will recognize when this card's energy is balanced.)
    Example: earnest, intelligent, valuable

  • When out of Balance (traits you'll notice when this card's energy is unbalanced.)
    Example: self conscious, apprehensive

  • To Bring into Balance (my favorite!!) (action steps to take to bring this card's energy into balance! (How great is that?!))
    : speak up, risk embarrassment 

I especially love the "To Bring into Balance" feature, because it gives you tangible steps to take to change something that is not going well. You aren't left scratching your head wondering what to do next.

There are five spreads in the book:

  • A Card a Day (One Card Reading)
  • An ingenious take on the boring Past/Present/Future: Who I Was/Who I Am/Who I Will Be. I loved the reading I got with this one!
  • The Path, the Obstacle (a 2-card cross reading). This one was a little confusing, because it is referred to as a problem and solution, but card 1 is the path (solution?) and card 2 is the obstacle, so it seems backwards to me. But the interesting bit with this one is that the author says the obstacle card will likely be in its "Out of Balance" state, which automatically gives you another way out, with the "To Bring Into Balance" action steps.
  • Relationship Spread (4 cards)
  • Year Ahead Spread (13 cards)

Final Thoughts
This deck/book set is a gem. It's wildly popular for good reason. It is, of course, the perfect accompaniment to The Wild Unknown Tarot, if you like to compliment your tarot readings with oracle cards (or vice versa!). But it is absolutely a stand alone deck, needing no companion to be complete. I am so happy to finally have it as part of my collection!

Deck: The Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck and Guidebook by Kim Krans, published by HarperOne.

Deck Reviews

Tarot Deck Review: Spiritsong Tarot

March 24, 2018

Spiritsong Tarot is a lovely tarot deck by Paulina Cassidy (creator of the Paulina Tarot and Joie de Vivre Tarot), and published by US Games Systems, Inc.

The Cards
The cards measure 3" x 5". The book and cards come in a sturdy box with a lift-off lid which has half-circle cut outs on the sides for easy lifting. The card finish is a nice matte with light sheen. The backs have a beautiful reversible design (shown in top photo). There is a thin white border, which I think frames the detailed artwork well. Featured at the bottom of the card are the number, title, and two keywords, along with a whimsical design.

If you are familiar with Paulina Cassidy's artwork from her other tarot and oracle decks, you will recognize her signature minute detailing. If I had to choose one word to describe this deck, it would be gentle. That word comes to me every time I think to describe it. The deck is colored with soft pastel tones.

The suits are re-named (a pet peeve of mine) as follows:

Acorns: Wands
Shells: Cups
Feathers: Swords
Crystals: Pentacles

Some of the Major Arcana cards are renamed (which ironically doesn't bother me at all):

The Traveller: The Fool
Shaman: The Hierophant
Love: The Lovers
Transformation: Death
The Shadow: The Devil
Awakening: Judgement

There are no element-suit associations. For example, the Shells/Cups cards aren't associated with water, so they don't feature animals solely found in/around the water, Feathers/Swords aren't only flying creatures. In fact, there is not one single feathered animal in the Feathers suit. That strikes me as really, really bizarre.

I do wish the cards had featured the animal's name on the bottom of the card. Maybe instead of two keywords, they could have put the animal name and one keyword. Most of the animals are instantly recognizable, but some are a bit more obscure (e.g., jackal) or difficult to distinguish from others (e.g., crow vs. raven).

My favorite animal (manatee) is missing from the deck, but I love that there are some lesser seen animals in this deck (lobster, eel, meerkats, armadillo, porcupine, hedgehog, aardvark, walrus, etc.) in addition to the more popular animals you expect to see.

There are seven feline cards:

Cougar: Emperor
Lynx: High Priestess
Tiger: King of Crystals/Pentacles
Lion: King of Feathers/Swords
Leopard: Five of Acorns/Wands
Panther: Nine of Acorns/Wands
Cheetah: Seven of Feathers/Swords

There are four canine cards:

Wolf (Wolves): Love (Lovers)
Jackal: The Shadow (Devil)
Coyote: Knights of Feathers/Swords
Fox: Page of Crystals/Pentacles

As a cat person, I like this ratio just fine! ;)

But on the whole, there are more birds than anything in this deck: Raven, Eagle, Crow, Swan, Owl, Hummingbird, Peacock, Falcon, Dove, Crane, Penguin, Pelican, and Flamingo. Thirteen birds, and not one in the Feathers suit! Come on, that is weird, right?

My favorite card in the deck is the sweet sleeping bear in the Four of Feathers (Swords). I also love the choice of a hummingbird as the Sun card, because I've never seen anyone in real life less than delighted upon suddenly seeing a hummingbird.

The images are so soothing, I can see this as being a great deck to use for someone who is in need of healing or going through a rough patch, as the vibe is so peaceful. And obviously, it would be a great one to use with kids as well.

How it Reads
The animals in the cards are not performing any tarot-esque actions. It's more like a portfolio of animal headshots. So for me, this doesn't read like a tarot, but more like an animal spirit oracle. And I find the cards are more suited for single card draws, or layouts where each position means something different, where you don't need to see how the cards play off each other (because they don't, they are static figures).

I am personally happy to consider this a spirit animal oracle, because most animal oracles have much fewer cards, so this one has a full 78 animals, making it a much more expansive choice than other animal decks.

One morning I had asked the universe for peace that day. Less than an hour later, I later drew the Star (Swan), and one of the keywords on the card was "Peace"! I couldn't believe it. What an amazing synchronicity! It felt like such gentle reassurance.

The next day I drew the Queen of Feathers/Swords (Bat), and I was put in a situation where someone was attempting to manipulate me. This card had reminded me to keep on alert, and to be brave in the dark situation.

Next, I drew the Ace of Crystals/Pentacles (Panda), which often reminds me of a "treasure". That day I found an item in a store that I had been looking diligently for almost a year! It was quite a treasure indeed!

I drew the Nine of Crystals/Pentacles (Spider) on two occasions. Once I drew it an hour after I was offered more work hours. I thought I would jump at the chance for more money, but could no longer compromise my physical well-being by getting only three hours of sleep most nights. I said I could only continue with night shifts, not day shifts as well. At the moment, rejecting more hours felt counter-intuitive to the idea of abundance, but it was something I needed to do. A little while later, something inside me told me that by doing what was right for me, instead of what was right for my wallet, I would now be standing in the path of an opportunity that was better aligned for me. I was being called to trust that abundance will still be there when I choose self-care over money.

The next time I drew the Nine of Crystals/Spider, it was Thanksgiving day. Perfect timing for being grateful for the abundance already in one's life.

I drew the Lovers (Wolves) one day. The night before, I had done a meditation where I received the message to love, and to imagine myself surrounded by heart bokehs. This card reminded me of that.

One day I drew the King of Crystals/Pentacles (Tiger) and I can't remember anything relevant happening that day. It happens.

The next day I drew the Ace of Crystals/Pentacles Panda again. I was sick that day and slept pretty much all day. Pentacles is the physical suit, and the Ace is the basic, fundamental starting point. I was doing the bare minimum to just keep breathing that day.

One day I drew two cards from my Haunted Oracle deck, receiving the Spirit Animal and Madness cards. The Madness card referred to a relative, and the Spirit Animal card told me to consult a spirit animal for more help on the matter. So I pulled out the Spiritsong deck asking who wanted to help me on that subject. I drew the Five of Acorns/Wands (Leopard). This card speaks of shape-shifting to overcome challenges, and it sparked a train of thought in me, leading me to a couple of healing books I have that reference shape-shifting magick. It was such an intuitive flow, from one deck to the next, and then to the books. It was a super helpful suggestion, one that I was so grateful for.

I felt like this deck was very tuned into my energy, my needs and moods. I never used it for anything other than single-card draws, because as I said, without any action happening in the cards, they don't have a flow from card to card. But for single card draws, they were very helpful and insightful, and often just the soft, comforting presence I needed.

The Book
The 108-page book is just about the same size as the cards. There is a brief introductory section covering the basics of elements and suits.

There are no images of the cards in the booklet. Each passage begins with the card title, animal name and keywords printed on the cards. There is a Message (card meaning) followed by additional Keywords, brief Reversed Message and Reversed Keywords.

The meanings don't go into information on the animals in real life, but use the animal as the character whose traits embody the card's meaning. Here is an example, using the full excerpt for one of the cards:

Page of Shells (Cups) - Frog
Intuition and Inspiration
MESSAGE: A walker between water and earth, Frog is your messenger in transition, helping you to reveal the song of your soul.  He inspires you with a more rooted connection to your emotional self as you grow into something new and even more wonderful. Frog is a natural romantic with a heart brimming with love. He encourages you to express your feelings, as this will awaken passions and invigorate your heart.  Infinite possibilities of the imagination will set you in motion to unleash hidden talents. Jump at the chance of starting a new, exciting project that strikes your fancy.

KEYWORDS: Messenger, intuition, love blossoming, inspiration, passion, psychic, eccentricity, imagination, transition.

REVERSED MESSAGE: When illusions are shattered, believe that you will see things in a new light. Avoid repeating old patterns.

REVERSED KEYWORDS: Creative blocks, infatuation, moodiness, broken dreams, sensitivity to criticism.

I find the LWB to be well thought out, with as much attention given to the Minor Arcana cards as the Majors.

The book closes with a section on connecting with the cards, followed by several spreads:

  • The Spiritsong Single-Card Reading (1 card)
  • The Spiritsong Star Spread (6 cards)
  • The Spiritsong Healing Spread (6 cards)
  • The Spiritsong Tree of Life Spread (10 cards)
  • One-Card Oracle Reading (1 card) - (this is the same idea as the first spread)
  • Spiritsong Three-Card Oracle Reading (3 cards) - (past/present/future OR mind/body/spirit OR background/obstacle/advice)

There are two blank pages for notes at the end of the book.

Final Thoughts
This is a very lovely, soothing, calming, gentle deck. It is appropriate for all ages, and if you have any of Paulina's other decks, they will obviously work beautifully together. While it doesn't read like a traditional tarot, when I used it for single card draws, it got just the right messages across. I find myself turning to this deck when I feel overwhelmed and need a message that won't kick me while I'm down. It is also now my go-to deck when I feel the need to call on an animal guide for help. I draw a card to tell me which animal I am meant to work with at the time, for a particular issue, and so far the animals drawn have always been very well suited to my issues. It is a beautiful deck in so many ways!

Deck: Spiritsong Tarot (by Paulina Cassidy, published by US Games Systems, Inc.)

Deck Reviews

Oracle Deck Review: Heal Yourself Reading Cards

January 14, 2018

Heal Yourself Reading Cards is a stunning, sensual deck by Inna Segal (creator of The Secret Language of Colour Cards), illustrated by Cris Ortega and Drazenka Kimpel, and published by Rockpool Publishing.

I am going to have trouble writing this review, because I am going to run out of synonyms for "gorgeous". So you'll have to bear with my inevitable repetition.

The Cards
The cards and book are housed in a nice sturdy box which closes magnetically. There is a cardboard insert which holds the cards, but I always remove these as they make it too time consuming to extract the cards. The cards measure 3 3/4" x just over 5 1/2". The cards are large, so I am happy to say that they are flexible enough to riffle shuffle vertically. They have a very glossy finish which attract fingerprints like crazy, but you can only see them under certain light.

The backs feature a non-reversible design (see top photo), but the cards aren't meant to be used with reversals. The cards have a thin golden border. The numbers and titles are at the bottom of the cards, consisting of a keyword or key phrase.

My favorite card in the deck is Pay Attention to Signs (photo above). It is one of my all-time favorite cards of any deck, tarot or oracle. It's the card that made me have to have this deck! I love everything about it.

The Sexuality card is absolutely gorgeous, that woman is so stunning it's kinda hard to look away from her. This coming from a straight woman. :) And I really love the subtlety in the Entrapment card, with the partial view of a plague doctor wearing a beak mask in the corner of the card. It's really creepy and beautiful at the same time, my favorite combination. The Family and Tribe is a gorgeous and powerful card. There really are too many beautiful cards to go through each and every one.

There is a bit of diversity in the deck, but not much. The deck is primarily comprised of beautiful young white women with sexy bods. There is quite a bit of variety in the card imagery, if not in the characters. You will find magic, steampunk, fantasy, 19th century attire, animals, dark romanticism, and walking skeletons among the images.

I love the graveyard/skeleton cards. And there are a few cards that seem to be telling different parts of the same story, which I thought was really neat. Rejection, Love, and Home all seem like they could be the same woman, dealing with her feelings about her beau. In each of these cards, there is a framed painting in the background of a man who I assume is the one she seems to be enamored with. I love the old fashioned romantic scenes and dresses in so many of the cards.

There are three cards that I dislike (Dreams, Self-Love and Sexual Arts), as they don't feel like a fit with the rest of the cards. The art style and coloring make them feel like they belong in a different deck, like they somehow got lost and ended up in this deck by mistake. They would seem more at home in a deck with angels and fairies. It wasn't until I was looking for the artist to credit in this review that I realized the deck had two illustrators. Most of the cards are done by Cris Ortega, with only five of the cards illustrated by Drazenka Kimpel (three of the five being the above mentioned cards). I am curious why they had a second illustrator for just a few cards.

The only other card I don't love is titled Selling Out. While the deck as a whole is very sensual and sexy, this card feels like gratuitous objectification in comparison.

But other than those select few, I am madly in love with the illustrations for the rest of the cards. There is a beautiful darkness to the deck that I am very attracted to. When I think "beautiful decks" this one is certainly among the top of the list. It would be a great deck to bring out at Halloween time, without being Halloween themed.

How it Reads
On my first draw from the deck, I pulled Patience. Patience is a virtue that I seriously lack. I want it all done, and now! So this could have been a timely message for me any day of my life. But particularly on that day, when I had so many different balls in the air at once, I needed to remember to pause, breathe, and accept each moment as it came. This card was a perfect reminder for me that day.

The next day was Halloween, and I drew Inner Child! How perfect! I don't think there could have been a better day to have drawn that card, except maybe Christmas!

I drew Victim Consciousness (love the title of that on a card!) which reminded me to remove my victim mask and empower myself by taking responsibility for whatever seemed unfair at the moment, and arm myself with law of attraction tools to rise myself up.

I drew Self-Love one day, and it reminded me to lay on my acupressure mat, something I hadn't treated myself to in awhile.

The next day I drew Love, and I had happened to listen to a meditation that day about the heart chakra, where I received an internal message from Mother Mary: "You are love, you are loved - open yourself to divine love". So that synchronicity was lovely. The Love message was strong that day.

The most poignant draw was the day I drew Help From Above, and found out that my hospice client had passed away that day.

One week, I had three repeating cards. Here's how that went:

Monday/Thursday: Have Faith
Tuesday/Saturday: Courage
Wednesday/Friday: Pay Attention to Signs

Have Faith: This card told me to focus on the why, not the how, and have faith that everything will work out. Maintain positive expectation, even when you can't see how this thing could possibly work out. Let yourself be surprised and amazed at how it manifests. This wasn't about any one thing in particular, but just a general message for believing in the good in life. Coming up twice that week strengthened the message for me.

Courage: When this came up first on Tuesday, it was encouragement for me to do something I feared. I had a review at work that day to request a raise. I had to co-review myself over a lengthy 3-page questionnaire with over 50 questions rating my work performance on a scale. It is incredibly difficult for me to toot my own horn, so it was a mild form of torture. I brought crystals with me to help easy my anxiety and bring me luck. I did get the raise, and my boss was very heavy with praise for me. So all went well, but it really called up the need for courage on my end, as I am not comfortable people-ing. When the card came up again later in the week, it was a reminder that I am capable of more than I think I am, if only I can face my fears.

Pay Attention to Signs: This is my favorite card in the whole deck, so I was so happy it came up for me not once, but twice that week! And the synchronicity was out of control that week! For one thing, I had three cards from this deck repeat in one week. And to add to the magic, that same week I had five synchronicities with Hermit-type lanterns showing up in different cards, from different decks, including this card! There was literally a sign in the Pay Attention to Signs card! There were too many signs to even keep track of that week. However, as it often happens with me, I get so many synchronicities, but they don't lead anywhere. They're just magical for their own sake really. I made a note to pay closer attention to see if there were actual signs leading me down one path or another.

My most recent draw with this deck was the Temptation card. And I couldn't get that card out of my head for the next couple days. I thought about it when I was stuffing more and more chocolate down my gullet. I thought about the card when I procrastinated doing things that needed doing. I thought about the card while giving into temptation every time. I have no willpower. I thought about this card as I was doing the very thing the card warned me against, and I would just carry right on doing it. Maybe awareness is a first step. But it sure would be more helpful if I was tempted by broccoli and productivity.

So the cards in this deck always had something relevant to say. And they would all be helpful if I was strong/smart enough to heed the messages. Some are easier than others. (Which is insight in itself... spend some time with this deck and pay attention to the advice that seems harder to follow than others. Therein lies a weakness you might want to work on, or at least be aware of.)

The Book
The 88-page book has a thick glossy cover, with nice glossy pages. There is a Table of Contents which lists the cards by card number. I wish the cards had been numbered in alphabetical order for easier reference. (Sometimes I want to look up a card without having the card in hand, and don't know the number.) Next is a brief introduction which includes the usual one-card reading spread, as well as a 3-card Past-Present-Future spread with optional "Overall Message" 4th card. There are a few other suggestions for card selection (pendulum, jumpers, letting the energy of your fingers tingle over a card). Then there is a 6-card reading for deciding between two options.

Each card is given a two-page spread. On the left page is a full-size, full-color image of the card (the images are the same size as the cards). On the right page, the meanings are given. The passage begins with the card title, with a quick and obvious message summary in italics directly below. (Examples: INNER CHILD: Your inner child is urging you to lighten up a little, get out of your comfort zone and have fun! PATIENCE: You must develop patience in all areas of your life.)

Half of the page is dedicated to the card's meaning. This section gives you an idea of how the card pertains to your life, and asks you questions for self-reflection. The last section on the page is an Action prompt, in a little box. These are practical suggestions you can take action on to absorb the card's message into your actual life, to promote concrete change.

Here is the Action prompt for the SAY WHAT YOU MEAN card:

Rub your hands together for about 30-40 secs then imagine that you are holding a blue ball of energy in your hands.  Reflect on the qualities of confidence, honesty and clarity. Then place your hands just above your throat and breathe in the blue light. Imagine this light moving into your throat and helping you to access the right words that you need to say.

Picture the person who you need to communicate with standing in front of you. Share what you feel you need to say to this person, realizing that their Higher Self is listening.

When you have completed this action, write down what you feel you need to say to them. Then share your feelings in person if appropriate.

I appreciate having an action prompt for each card. I haven't personally utilized any of them yet, but they are nice to have.

The book ends with an About the Author page and photograph, Acknowledgments, a page each on the two illustrators, two lined pages for note, and lastly an advert for a book by the author.

Final Thoughts
This is a visually stunning deck, no doubt one of my prettiest decks. It has a lot of dark romanticism in it, which I absolutely love. A few of the cards seem out of place, but as a whole, the deck is gorgeous and seamless despite the varying themes (from steampunk to skeletons). I don't particularly feel this is any more of a healing deck than any other, despite the title, but maybe that's where the action prompts come into play. In any case, it is a gorgeous oracle deck that has some good insights and encourages self-reflection and self-empowerment, which is always a good thing.

Deck: Heal Yourself Reading Cards (by Inna Segal, illustrated by Cris Ortega and Drazenka Kimpel, and published by Rockpool Publishing).

Book Reviews

Book Review: Burning Woman

January 07, 2018

Burning Woman is a powerful feminist manifesto, rooted in history but written for the modern woman, by Lucy H. Pearce, published by Womancraft Publishing.

Before I even opened the book, I could feel from the cover art vibe (by Robin Lea Quinlivan) that this was going to be a book that moved me. That was an understatement. This is not a book for the feint of heart. It will challenge you in so many ways. It will suggest that you face utter darkness (literally), and then get naked with your sisterhood around a fire. It will remind you of the shame you carry, as well as the light you project. It has the power to light you up and then make you uncomfortable, and back again. It is both empowering and horrific. It isn't always easy reading. It contains atrocities against women, both historical and ongoing. Things I was horrified to learn were still happening in this day and age.

There are many quotes from people and other books, along with poetry sprinkled throughout the book. The narrative itself often reads extremely poetically. I found it difficult at times to keep my attention focused, as I like to get straight to the point of things, so I sometimes lose my way when things get abstract and take awhile to get to a single point (which a personal issue of mine, I am wildly impatient, not at all a criticism of the author, who writes very beautifully). You can tell that the author wrote this book straight from her raw, open heart. I resonated so strongly with some parts of the book where she bared her soul and fears, it was like she took the feelings and insecurities straight from my own soul and put them down on paper. That connection was so powerful and comforting.

Another point where I felt the author could see into my soul was her experience of social anxiety, trying to be both Burning Woman and Good Girl, not feeling "good enough" to be a Good Girl, and carrying that burden of wanting to be both good and strong, both able to stand up for yourself and nice at the same time. " a Good Girl I hate conflict. As a Good Girl I want everyone to like me. But as a Burning Woman I can't stand conformity." YES. There was so much of me nodding my head and saying "Yes!" while reading this book.

This book is exceptional, from beginning to end, even in the minor details. Normally I skip right by the Table of Contents in a book. But something drew me to read the chapter headings in the Contents before beginning. I have never been more excited to read a book based on the chapter titles! I am writing them here for you to see what I mean:

1. Burning Woman
2. A History of Burning Woman
3. The Masculine Dark
4. The Threshold
5. The Feminine Dark
6. Clearing Space
7. The Calling
8. Adventures in Energy Alchemy
9. Embodied Initiations to Power
10. Burning Woman Ceremony
11. Stories of Burning
12. Dancing in the Flames

Doesn't that just light a spark in you already? Without even having read a word of it?

There are numerous exercises and question sections throughout the book that help you absorb the information you are reading, making it personal, making it your own.

My favorite takeaway from this book was the practice of  "Going Dark", which is more than just unplugging or going off the grid for a bit. It can be literally placing yourself in complete darkness, and just BEING in the dark. Living through the fear and discomfort, moment by moment. In a world of living so automatically, Going Dark is a feeling of really, truly, being alive in the present moment. It prompted me to take a night walk in the pitch darkness, with no lights around. It was very, very scary, but also more empowering than I can describe. Another time, I placed myself in a pitch dark room where I couldn't see an inch in front of my face. I stood there, through the discomfort, through the moments of wanting to see, to read something, to turn on a light, to know what was in front of me. The strong, primal urge to see something, to know what I couldn't know in the dark. It will be a practice that I return to and value highly. I feel that everyone will have their own favorite takeaway from this book. I know I will never dance nude around a bonfire with other women, but the darkness ritual is all mine now, and I am grateful.

I experienced a lot of synchronicities as I was reading this book. Synchronicities with dragons, fire, burning. I even burned my finger really badly when reading it. Also, I would find that I would hear/see/experience something which directly correlated with a passage I had just read in Burning Woman. You know you're meant to be doing something (in this case, reading this book) when the Universe is giving you powerful signs about it at the same time.

This book will wake you up. It will stir things inside you. It will make you feel so many things along the emotional scale, from ecstatic to terrified and everywhere in between. It is a call to step into your power, the feminine power that has been held back for so long. It is getting easier to do so, but we have a long way to go until the masculine-feminine power is balanced. This book will encourage you to stop holding back. To stop shrinking from being the strong, powerful, divine feminine being you were designed to be. It verges on making you feel ridiculous for not living your life with more power.

I haven't even touched the surface of this book in this review. There is so much more to it, so much more you will get out of it. And you'd have to be dead not to get something out of it. I don't believe it's a book you read only once. It is one I know I will return to again, and get more out of the next time around.

If you need encouragement to embrace more of your feminine power, Lucy H. Pearce is your guide, your counselor, your shoulder, your cheerleader. If you want reassurance that you are meant to be more than you are currently allowing yourself to experience, Burning Woman is your book.

Book: Burning Woman, by Lucy H. Pearce, published by Womancraft Publishing

Deck Reviews

Tarot Deck Review: The Illuminati Tarot: Keys of Secret Societies

January 07, 2018

The Illuminati Tarot: Keys of Secret Societies is a fascinating deck from Schiffer Publishing, by Casey Duhamel and illustrated by Bob Greyvenstein (not to be confused with the similarly titled Tarot Illuminati). This is probably going to be my most image-heavy review to date, because there is just so much I want to share, so many different things to see in this deck.

The deck and book come housed in a nice sturdy box with a magnetic closure. The cards measure 3" x 4 3/4". They are highly glossy, making them very difficult to photograph, so there is quite a bit of glare in my photos (I attempted both indoor and outdoor photography). The backs are reversible, featuring a double-ended Fleur-de-lis design (shown in the first photo). The card stock is very thick, and not the easiest to shuffle, but doable.

While I'm not usually a fan of borders, I don't mind these, as they have an antiquated look that I like. The images also have antiquated detailing. The Fool (above) even has ink smudges that look like an ink bottle was placed on the image. These little details are really attractive to me.

The Cards
This is a themed deck which includes five secret societies. The Majors and Minors (Pips) are each represented by a different society:

Majors: The Priory of Scion
Wands: The Golden Dawn
Cups: The Rosicrucians
Swords: The Freemasons
Coins: The Martinists

I know nothing about secret societies, so I did not come at this deck with any preconceived notions.

This is a pip deck. The Minors are illustrated solely with symbols. I found this unfortunate for two reasons. First and foremost, the Majors and Courts are so clever and gorgeous, that a fully illustrated deck would have been heaven, and would have made this deck infinitely more readable. The second reason for my disappointment in the pips is that I find them either boring/repetitive (Wands), or completely impossible to decipher (Coins). The Coins are filled with astrology and symbology and Hebrew lettering, none of which is explained or even mentioned in the book, making them completely unreadable for me.

The Majors and Courts and Aces are beautifully done. I just found myself oohing and aahing over so many of the cards. It's such an eclectic mix of imagery, I don't know where to begin!

I am familiar with many of the characters in the cards, but there are some I had never heard of. Some familiar faces: Leonardo da Vinci is the Magician. Jesus is the central figure in the Lovers card. Sir Isaac Newton is the Chariot. Nostradamus is the Wheel of Fortune. Joan of Arc is Strength.

The Courts are renamed:

Page: Novice
Knight: Initiate
Queen: Adept
King: Mage

The Courts are really interesting, being represented by humans of history, mythological creatures, gods and goddesses, statues and constellations. Among them is a mermaid, a quinotaur, the goddess Isis, the god Osiris, and the Statue of Liberty, just to give a little example of the variety. The Mage of Coins is one of my favorite cards in the deck, featuring a constellation with a beautifully colored background, but the book does not tell you what constellation it is, or the meaning behind the symbology.

Further down in the review, I have included images of all the Court Cards. This is the first time I have done this in a review, but the cards are so varied I couldn't pick and choose!

The Aces are absolutely gorgeous. Each of the Aces feature what appears to be a castle window, with the suit symbol portrayed in stained glass. Outside the windows are different cities in different seasons. I can't think of a set of Aces from another deck that I love more than the way these were done.

I found the Swords pips to be the most interesting of the four suits, with slightly more in the imagery than just different placement of the suit symbols.

How it Reads
One day I drew the Chariot on a day when all I did was drive around on errands all day. I ended up going to nine different stores.

Another day I drew the 8 of Cups + Empress + Wheel of Fortune. We were celebrating Mother's Day a day early, because Mother's Day happened to fall on my daughter's birthday that year. As I was looking at the cards I had just drawn, my kids told me they were going to give me a massage. As they were massing my back, they played my favorite song by Josh Groban "Alejate". During the song, it hit me. Alejate roughly translates to "walk away", which is the 8 of Cups! The Empress was me, a mother on Mother's Day. And the Wheel of Fortune is an unexpected event, describing this unexpected spa treatment from my kiddos! How funny that the entire scene played out just as I was contemplating the cards.

That same day, I asked what I could do to make my daughter's birthday (the next day) a good one. She wanted no gifts this year, no special food, no cake (no birthday cake!!), no decorations, nothing (minimalism in full effect). I drew Tower + Hermit + Queen of Cups.  Our regular birthday traditions were shot to hell (Tower) as my daughter just wanted a quiet, normal day following her inner guidance of not being extravagant (Hermit). The Queen of Cups was telling me that I needed to be supportive and understanding, respecting her wishes and choices, despite my sadness that I couldn't "properly" celebrate my daughter like I wanted to.

The next day, I drew the Two of Cups and Nine of Cups. It was officially Mother's Day, so the Two of Cups was apt, as I was with my kids, who I love most in the world. And the Nine of Cups was my daughter getting the birthday she wished for.

I was able to read with the deck quite well, but when a pip card came up, I read it as I would a RWS card. The Eight of Cups, for example, I read as "walking away" even though nothing in the imagery or symbolism indicated that meaning. I don't think I drew a Coins card during my time with the deck.

The Book
The 176-page book has a thick, glossy cover. There is a Table of Contents which lists all the sections of the book, as well as a page number given for each of the cards.

Chapter One goes into tarot history. Chapter Two shares links between tarot and secret societies.

Chapter Three goes into detail on the different parts of the deck (pip associations with playing cards, elements, seasons, etc, even assigning each of the suits with the Neoplatonic Four Humors, which I had never seen before.). The Courts are also assigned elements and Tetragrammaton designations. This section also goes into the history of the Major Arcana.

Chapter Four is titled "The Priority of Scion" and it precedes the section on the Major Arcana which represents this society. Each suit is preceded by a brief introduction to the society it represents.

The Majors each feature a small color image of the card, followed by a relevant quote. This is followed by background information on the character or history of the card. Each card is given attributes such as an Archangel, Cabala, Element, Hebrew name, and sometimes astrology assignment. This is followed by the tarot card's history. And lastly, a list of keywords is given.

The Courts are treated similarly to the Majors, but the attributes given are Nature, Element, Tetragrammaton, and Card Personage.

The pips are given only keywords. There is absolutely no information on the card images or symbolism at all. Again, with the way the Coins were done, I cannot understand this decision.

The book ends with a Conclusion page and a bibliography.

I am no more clear on the subject of secret societies than I was when I first got this set. While the book information goes into great detail of the "who" and "when" and "where", it does not address much of the "what". If you are looking to learn more about secret societies and what they are all about, this wouldn't be your best place to start. The deck and book (cryptic pips, mythological court cards, etc.) left me with more questions than answers.

Final Thoughts
I am torn here. The Majors, Courts and Aces are magnificent. Some of the pips are okay, the Swords being the most interesting. But overall, the pips (mostly the Coins suit) make this deck unreadable to me. I considered making this a Majors only deck, but I would not want to leave out the Courts or Aces. Can you have a Majors-Courts-Aces only deck? Bit strange. So I don't know. I love half of this deck so very much. If you can make heads or tails of the Coins, then I'd highly recommend this deck. It is gorgeous and intriguing and so very interesting.

Deck: The Illuminati Tarot: Keys of Secret Societies, by Casey Duhamel, illustrated by Bob Greyvenstein, published by Schiffer.