Review: Oracle of Initiation (Tarot edition)

Oracle of Initiation (Tarot Size version)
Written, Designed, and Published by Mellissae Lucia
ISBN 978-0-9834562-0-9

Visionary Gateway of Unity from the Oracle of Initiation by Mellissae Lucia.
Visionary Gateway of Unity from the Oracle of Initiation by Mellissae Lucia.

Mellissae Lucia’s Oracle of Initiation (Tarot version) is a 68 card deck designed and conceived by the author. Lucia states that the deck is “a mysterious and shape-shifting deck” that can offer “experienced guidance for embracing the beauty in spiritual transformation.” The deck is structured in eight worlds, each with eight cards that help the seeker understand the growth of their own life journey. She says that there are two types of cards, gateway and painted body cards. “Each Gateway card offers their main description and then their four elements for each of the realms. After the Gateways come the seven Painted Body cards. The Painted Body cards each have a focusing phrase and their main description, followed by the cross-cultural goddess, god or archetype that is the Guardian corresponding to that Painted Body spirit.”

My review copy included a tarot-sized set of cards wrapped in a velvet blue bag to hold the cards in, and a copy of the 400-page companion guide. I ended up requesting a copy of the PDF guide because the companion book does not have some of the card meanings in it. With this in mind, here’s my in-depth review of this deep and mysterious deck.

The Cards
The tarot-sized version of the Oracle of Initiation comes with 68 cards. Each world takes the reader and seeker through various human development stages. The cards themselves are 2.75” wide by 4.75 long and are made of a sturdy card stock. The finish has a linen texture to it but they are also a bit glossy, which makes them a bit hard to shuffle in my hands. Seriously, the cards jumped out of my hands when I first held them—it was as if they all wanted to speak at once. Even after a few months of owning the cards, they want to jump out of my hands. The card backs are black with a red graffiti art on them. This pattern is not reversible; however, Lucia’s companion guide does give many suggestions on how to read the cards reversed. The edges of the card hold up rather well, too. They retain their black sheen, after all the times I’ve shuffled them.

Back art from the Oracle of Initiation by Mellissae Lucia.
Back art from the Oracle of Initiation by Mellissae Lucia.

The artwork on the Oracle of Initiation are a combination of photographs taken while she was in the New Mexican Graffiti Tunnels and some stylized hand-drawn art. The photographed cards are amazing to look at. They jump out at you and have an otherworldly appearance to them. Even after looking through the deck many times, I find it hard to believe that they aren’t manipulated in any way. The companion guide suggests that you look at the art to give you more details of the messages that Spirit are showing you in the cards; which is a great idea and something I love. Even the way the figures in the card move, evoke meaning to follow.

How It Reads
It took me forever to get to this reading section. There is so much in the Companion Book that I wanted to take my time to read through it and get to know the deck better. As I am not really used to reviewing oracle systems, I’m curious to see what the cards say about themselves in this three card reading. When I do these readings, I try not to overlay any other knowledge than what the LWB or companion book suggests.

1. What can you teach users?

Collaboration from the Oracle of Initiation by Mellissae Lucia.
Collaboration from the Oracle of Initiation by Mellissae Lucia.

I received 39. Collaboration, also known as the Balance of Alliance. The deity for this card is Gaia, and I’m loving the synchronicity. The Companion book describes this card as being “an authentic collaboration” that can provide “mutually beneficial association allowing both parties freedom within connection.” I think that this is a great answer to what the deck can teach users. By the deck providing the images for exploration and the person reading the card to provide understanding and divine connection, this deck can provide an awesome collaboration.

2. What are your strengths?

Naivety from the Oracle of Initiation by Mellissae Lucia.
Naivety from the Oracle of Initiation by Mellissae Lucia.

I received 4. Naivety, also known as the Initiation of Innocence. The deity for this card is Tara (haha, almost typed tarot there). The Companion book says that we “are they channel through which the inspiration of the galaxies may grace the earth, a starlight medium. (Our) initiation of innocence is remembering that within (our) naive quest for expansion, (we) are still flying blind, apprenticing to the ways of earthen awakening.” So, I take this that the deck is good to use with an open mind, a sense of play, and a willingness to expand one’s senses into the journey and contract they enter in with the deck.

3. What are your weaknesses?

Assimilation from the Oracle of Initiation by Mellissae Lucia.
Assimilation from the Oracle of Initiation by Mellissae Lucia.

Finally, for this last question, I got 61. Assimilation, also known as the Discernment of Unity. The deity for this card is Shango. The Companion book says that “assimilation is an awesome responsibility, attuning with all that surrounds you. The discernment of unity recognizes that assimilation is not simply absorbing: it is reweaving yourself into the matrix of existence, harmonized with all.” From these statements, I think that the deck is telling us that it can only show us what we need to do, but the work of integration (assimilating) the knowledge falls upon our shoulders and that it isn’t as easy as doing readings and writing journal entries. There is real work to be discovered with this deck, but only if you are willing to play and integrate the knowledge.

The Books
Lucia has two books to guide us through the Oracle of Initiation deck. I have both the 400 page Companion book, released for the initial deck publication (and kickstarter version), and a downloaded PDF guide made specifically for the tarot edition.

The 400-page Companion book is a wonderful marvel. The first 92 pages of the book take you on the journey through the deck’s creation. It gives you a huge record into how Lucia pushed her art and her spiritual direction to model the deck into a unique work of art. Then she introduces the structure, expanding on each of the eight worlds that the deck is broken into. She then describes how each world’s cycle comes together and interplays with one another. Finally, she devotes a chapter on the various ways to use the deck and how to read the card by listing to the divine voices we all carry. Nine spreads are included throughout the book, in-between the various card meanings. One really cool thing that the Companion book includes is a marked tab system on the page edges— this helps readers find the card meanings quickly.

The LWB PDF is a slimmer booklet. It contains choice bits of information about the deck, how it’s designed, and good bite-sized snippets of the meanings of the deck. In a way, I found the PDF a better quick-guide into the cards themselves.

Final Thoughts

The Oracle of Initiation takes awhile to get into and understand. But those who are willing to take the time, will enjoy the messages and connections it has to offer. I had the pleasure of attending a Study Group class taught by Mellissae at 2015 Readers Studio. We used cards from the Oracle of Initiation, along with cards from other oracles, to build a circular reading that can help us get closer to who we really are and get in touch with these messages. Like the reading I constructed from that workshop  I feel like I am only starting out on the personalized journey and connection with this deck. One that I am excited to see where it takes me.

Deck Review: The Incidental Tarot by Holly DeFount

Self published and available through theincidentaltarot.com
ISBN 978-0-615-56475-3
Rating: 4 Decks

The Cards and Artwork

9-The Blue Buddha (DeFount’s version of The Hermit). Photo copyright Holly DeFount, used with permission.

The Incidental Tarot took me by surprise. I’m not big of “marseilles style” tarots (decks where the images on the minor numbered cards depict little more than just the suit’s symbol and number and no reference picture) and my first thought was to pass picking this deck up. But as I sat there leafing through a friend’s copy, the images called out to me and I knew that I had to invest in this personal and unique deck. The deck itself is not 100% Rider Waite, but it’s also not quite marseilles either. Its voice is as vibrant and unique as the creatrix who designed it.

Holly DeFount says regarding the deck’s style, “My style is heavily influenced by Medieval and Renaissance art, as well as the late Victorian painters, the Pre- Raphaelites. The simple yet rich symbolism of these styles has always resonated with me, and I find it translates beautifully to the intrinsically esoteric art of the Tarot. … My philosophy was primarily one of “less is more,” and I think this makes the deck resonate with a pure, archetypal impact.” The cards are printed on a good, strong card stock that lends itself well for shuffling. Unlike many decks that choose to include two “throwaway” cards, The Incidental Tarot includes two additional cards (deck talismans) that represent the journey into and out of this deck.

18-La Lune (DeFount’s version of The Moon). Photo copyright Holly DeFount, used with permission.

The Incidental Tarot has taken the regular tarot structure and radically personalized it. Many of the Majors have new and updated names. For example, Strength is called Gryphon and the Magician is called the Red King. DeFount also renamed the court names to suit her own style as well. Each suit’s page and knight have a unique designation to the deck, and a Queen and a King. Even the suits wear different names as well. DeFount says, “With the Minor Arcana, I chose to use elemental symbols that have always spoken to me. Golden Arrows in place of wands for fire, symbolizing raw energy, activity and movement. Roses in place of cups for water, illustrating emotion, intuition, creativity and relationships. Quills became the suit of swords representing both air and the workings of the mind: thought, learning, communication. And in lieu of pentacles, the mighty oak came to represent the earth element: the body, home and hearth, and material abundance.”

The cards themselves are wider than the standard Llewellyn and US Games decks. However, they still shuffle well and have a good solidity to them despite having to shuffle them at the width. I’m not sure who printed the cards but they look well designed, carry a bit of a gloss on them, and have a perfectly sized tuckbox that will keep the cards safe for years. The backs are reversible and were inspired by a Rumi poem.

Eager to use the deck, I went ahead and asked it the following questions:

3 of Roses. Photo copyright by Holly DeFount.
3 of Roses. Photo copyright Holly DeFount, used with permission.

1. What can you teach users? I drew the 3 of Roses. Of the Rose suit, DeFount says that it represents “emotions, creativity, adaptability, compassion, expression.” The keyword for this card is Fertility and I think it’s a poignant single word answer to this question. This deck desires to create new and personalized connections between what we think the tarot is and what this deck contains.

2. What are your strengths? I drew the 4 of Quills for this question’s answer. Of this suit, DeFount says it represents “communication, investigation, learning, technology, commerce.” This card’s keyword is Articulation which I interpret to mean that this deck, once you tap into it’s meanings and resources, has the ability to open doors, uncover new meanings and harness new potentials. Much like how DeFount did when she went about creating The Incidental Tarot itself.

4 of Quills. Photo copyright by Holly DeFount.
4 of Quills. Photo copyright Holly DeFount, used with permission.

3. What are your weaknesses? I drew The Bard (or the Knight of Roses) to answer this question. Before I consulted the companion book to read the keyword, the concept of bardic song and poetry popped into my mind. I think that this deck has the potential to overwhelm and wow users over, so much that they shy away from wanting to use this deck. Believe me, it does want to be used. The keyword for this card is Creativity and I think that it sums up the idea of how creativity and passion can be perceived as a emotional investment that can sometimes be a deterrent.

The Companion Book
The deck itself does not come with a book (you can download a sheet of meanings from her website). However, DeFount has published a companion book, The INCIDENTAL TAROT, A Spiritual and Creative Journey The Companion to the Cards, over at Lulu.com for those who want to know more about how this deck was put together. It’s filled with her philosophy on spirituality, art, and a keen understanding of tarot meanings. Her personality shines throughout the book. The book begins with personal details on the deck’s unique name and format, how the deck came to be, and her artistic vision (all the quotes in this review were taken from the PDF eBook version.) The rest of the book contains three sections: Major, Minor, and How to Read the Cards.

The Bard (knight of roses). Photo copyright by Holly DeFount.
The Bard (Knight of Roses). Photo copyright Holly DeFount, used with permission.

The Major Arcana section is by far the beefiest. In this section, each card is shown in full color with a date on when the card was birthed. DeFount also tells us a story about how they relate back to her life, in addition to discussing the card’s primary meaning. We’re also given a short keyword summary of each card’s energy, and what that card means when read reversed.

The section on the Minor Arcana doesn’t get the personal treatment like the Majors. However, DeFount does let us know what their upright and reversed meanings are; along with the meanings for some of the symbolisms that do appear in the images. At the end of both Major and Minor sections, DeFount includes a table filled with single keywords for each major and minors. At the end of the book there is a short essay on how to read with the cards. It also includes a unique spread inspired by her friends.

However, this book is a great way to really understand the unique and personal vision of the deck, in which DeFount says, “In my estimation, the Tarot is never a rigid system of divining the future, but rather a fluid, symbiotic oracle that is entirely defined by the personal relationship of the cards and the reader. If the Incidental Tarot is a language of divination; then each new oracle (cards and reader) will speak a slightly different dialect.”

Bottom Line
Deck collectors will love The Incidental Tarot. The art is unique and blends a bit of the old with modern day techniques. Outside of doing a few daily draws with this deck, I have not really read with it much. I connect far more to the images than I do to it as a Tarot deck. However, I love the way DeFount re-imagined tarot to fit her personal spiritual world. I highly recommend that you buy a copy (electronic or paper) of the companion guide for it will both expand your appreciation for the artistry in this deck as well as properly guide you into reading the deck as an oracle.

Deck Review: Sharman-Caselli Tarot

Sharman-Caselli Tarot Deck
Connections Book Publishing, 2005
Rating: 2 Decks

The first thing I noticed about this deck was how pink it is. Yes, you heard me… pink. The backs are a bright, solid pink with a single silver rectangle printed near the edges. This brightness comes wrapped in a really nice box that includes a companion booklet. This tarot deck tries so hard to prove that it is THE beginner’s tarot deck that pink seems to be the only thing it accomplishes.

The Sharman-Caselli Tarot follows the Rider-Waite formula but it also borrows “some of its imagery from the earliest decks, such as the Visconti-Sfzora.” The cards are printed on a thick card-stock with no protective finish. Shuffling was difficult, as the cards are stiff, but time and use will loosen them up. The Sharman-Caselli uses a thematic approach with color and symbols tied throughout each suite that help “beginners identify which suit a particular card belongs to and [how] to connect each suit to its element.” The artwork is rich in detail, and features a “line and wash” style. Sadly, the artwork does not evoke much passion from me. If I set this deck down next to one of my other decks, the vibrancy of the other cards just make the art in The Sharman-Caselli deck look flat.

The companion booklet (aka LWB, or “little white book”) gives a short and informative introduction to tarot before going into the meanings of the major and minor arcana. Each card has a half-page dedicated to it. This includes a thumbnail image of the card, a bulleted list of symbols and what they represent, and ends with a one or two word thematic summary for each card (such as “generosity and strength” for the Queen of Wands). A sample reading done with the 5-card “Horseshoe Spread” closes out the booklet.

When I opened the box for the first time things got a bit wonky. The deck was out of order when I received it, so I wanted to put it back into suit order. None of the major arcana have numbers on them, so I wasn’t sure where to place “Justice” and “Strength.” When I referenced the LWB it told me that “Justice” came first. Okay, so it seems that this deck follows Crowley more in with its order and meaning. No worries there. But, after Justice comes Temperance, then Strength, then The Hermit, and then the Wheel of Fortune, followed by Hanged Man and Death. Wait, what?! These cards, number 8-14, appear in an order that I have never seen before. It’s like they completely revised the Fool’s Story for this deck. I know that many decks like to revise the major arcana card orders to suggest how we can interpret the stages of life, but this deck radically changes the order without spending time on the why. Even the LWB doesn’t clue me into why this order came to be. Was it a mistake or intentional? I guess the world will never know.

I typically review decks using three questions:

1.What can I learn from you?
The Four of Cups practically leapt from the deck for this question. It tells me that I cannot learn anything from it because my dislike for this deck obscures whatever insight the cards could offer.

2. What is your speciality?
I then drew the Five of Swords. To which the cards say that their specialty is showing people their limits and victories.

3. How does your personality differ from other decks?
Finally, I drew the Six of Pentacles, and the deck said that what sets it apart is a balanced and generous approach to symbolism. A fairly accurate reading, definitely spot on with the answer to my first question.

Bottom Line
Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend this deck to anyone. (Although I may use this deck in an altered art collaboration project.) The box’s backside claims that “this deck has been specifically created for the first-time tarot user.” I disagree. I do prefer the Rider Waite meanings over Crowley’s but to have so many of the bigger secret cards out of order just seems like it would confuse any new-to-tarot student. The images, while nicely drawn, fall flat and fail to keep my attention drawn into the symbolism. And the LWB, while being focused more on the symbolism meanings, doesn’t give enough of a range of interpretation for each card. I’m still left wanting to recommend beginners look at the Universal Waite or Robin Wood decks first.

Postnote: I did check other online reviews to see others said about The Sharman-Caselli Tarot. What I found surprised me. This deck was once offered in a 192-page book and deck set and had been consistently given high review marks. However, not many reviewers mention the backs or the strange ordering of the 7 cards noted in this review. Reading what others said makes me wonder if my low rating and review is a result of this printing and edition only.

Playing The Tarot Game with Jude Alexander

Every now and then a new product comes out on the tarot radar that makes all us enthusiasts go “ooh” and wonder how it revolutionizes, and challenges, current tarot structures. A few years ago, Emily Carding did this with her Transparent Tarot deck. Well, now Jude Alexander has done it with her fun and insightful, Tarot Game. Read on to find out how much fun I had playing my first game with the creator Jude Alexander and what The Tarot Game can do for you as a tool for transformational change.

I purchased The Tarot Game right before going to The Readers Studio and since returning home, I haven’t had much time to read the rules or play. Much to my surprise, Jude was offering two person games via Skpye. So I jumped on the chance to play and learn from the creator herself.
Continue reading Playing The Tarot Game with Jude Alexander

Review: Konxari Cards

Konxari Cards
IRM Foundation, 2009
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Konxari (pronounced kon-zar-ee) Cards is a new spirit-focused divination deck, created by the IRM Foundation and featuring the photography of Paul Michael Kane. The idea is that you take the deck with you to a spooky location, shuffle and let the spirits relay messages to you through the cards. An updated version of the ouija board, the cards use photographs, words, and symbols to give you many ways to connect with spirits. The publishers of the deck claim that Konxari has roots in ancient Egypt and that it, along with tarot cards, have come from this era. Erroneous information aside (as far as the tarot goes), my curiosity got the best of me and I had to check this deck out.

The deck of 88 cards comes in a long rectangular box. The whole package of box, book and 44-cards sitting next to one another, gives the impression that this deck is more entertainment designed than to be used as a true spiritual tool. The cards themselves measure two by three inches and are printed on a light-weight card-stock with a semi-glossy coating. Their size, along with the glossy coating, makes the cards hard to shuffle when stacked together. Each card features a image, a title, a symbol (or color spot), and a letter (or number). Some cars are printed in a landscape rotation. The instruction booklet has 32 pages and contains “Quick” and “Expanded” rules for using the cards. It also provides meanings to some of the cards; symbol definitions; and includes two alternative spreads to use with the cards when you are not out searching for ghosts.

My husband and I put the Konxari Cards to the test at Samhain. We followed the rules of the booklet (“never play Konxari cards alone”) and we sat in a darkened room of our home. We hoped that the cards would connect with something and relay a message that we’d understand. We shuffled the cards and laid them out according to the main layout found inside the booklet. We removed four cards and were left with eight remaining cards: hiding, attic, door, prophesy, thermal, suffering, aura and shadow. The images and words caught our eyes and from this we figured that the impressions came from something we call “the house fae”. There is a closet on our first floor that tends to be popular with our cats. They’re always running in and out, as if they’re chasing something into that space. We also tend to use the space as our “attic” in that we store boxes, and decorations in it. Therefore the first few cards seemed to align with our experiences. Since the booklet also recommends playing with the cards and rearranging them to spell out words (remember, each card has letters on it) we shifted the cards around so they spelled words or phrases. We came up with Requim B6 (or 6B), and Be Quirm 6. Neither seemed important or seemed meaningful.

As I do with my tarot decks, I asked the Konxari Cards if they had anything to share about themselves. I drew the moon card for my first question, “What can I learn from you?” This card suggests using Konxari Cards could help expose or draw us closer to the mysteries we commonly associate with the moon: magick, death, and nature itself. I drew the Mirror card for my second question, “What is your speciality?” Here, the card represents the deck’s desire to show us reflections of the spirit world as they mirror or our lives and pasts. It is also said that mirrors are a portal to other realms and that this deck could be seen as a portal for contacting those realms. Finally, I drew the Hallway card for my final question of, “How does your personality differ from other decks?” The Eye of Horus drawn on this card suggests that the deck give “the dead the ability to see again”— a trait that other decks do not address.

Konxari Cards offer a new and portable tool to reach out and connect with the dead. If you’re a ghost hunter looking for a compact spirit communication tool to add to your arsenal then give these cards a shot. I also recommend Konxari Cards to the divination curious and would like to uncover a new type of cartomancy. To learn more about Konxari cards, visit www.konxari.com. The site contains the deck’s history, descriptions of the cards, and some videos of the cards in use and creative direction.