Divination Tools Reviews

With so many tarot and oracle decks out there how does the novice and adept reader decide on a new deck? The Witches’ Almanac helps you separate the wheat from the chaff with our recommendations and insights.

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ORACLE

Liminal Spirits Oracle by Laura Tempest Zakroff.
A deep journey into liminal spaces...
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TAROT

The Santa Muerte Tarot by Fabio Listrani.
Interest in the mysterious folk deity Santa Muerte...
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TAROT

The English Magic Tarot by Rex Van Ryn, Steve Dooley and Andy Letcher.
A nod to British occultists of ...

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TAROT

Ghosts & Spirits Tarot by Lisa Hunt
...this deck’s imagery rather than being forced is a visual reinterpretation...
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ORACLE

The Mayan Oracle: A Galactic Language of Light by Ariel Spilsbury & Michael Bryner
The Mayan Oracle explores the end ...
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Reviews/rev-liminalspiritsoracle2.jpg Liminal Spirits Oracle Laura Tempest Zakroff 

Oracular decks of cards are as common place as tarot these days. Pick a theme and you are more than likely to find such a deck well suited to your needs. Laura Tempest Zakroff has created an oracle that we are sure will satisfy the most discerning witch. Continuing on a theme that she often lectures on, Tempest takes us on a deep journey into liminal spaces by presenting to us the 42 spirits that inhabit the Liminal Spirits Oracle. She has chosen a cast of spirits that are not only personal to her but also have strong connections to mythology and Witchcraft.

There are many features of this deck and subject matter that make this oracle so appealing. The individual cards are each an exquisite artistic exploration of the esoteric subject being expounded. The ethereal, pithy quality to Tempest’s artwork is in no way assuming or inaccessible. In fact, each card seems to beckon the user to embark on the journey of the card. For example, the scorching heat of the salamander card can be felt, the coolness of the rolling waves of the ocean card begs a frolic and mysterious eyes in the mugwort card stand ready to reveal the mysteries.

Another feature that sets this deck apart is the organization of the deck. While it is not unique to organize cards in groups, Tempest has given us groups that are far from oridinary. She has ordered her deck into eight groups: Rites, Places, Trees, Herbs, Wings, Fur Fauna, Artifacts and Scale, Slither & Swim. Each of these groups of five cards is a collection of spirits with a common concept. There are two cards, Gateway and Mushroom, that do not fit into a group. These two cards are concerned with the most liminal of spirits, the beginning and the end of cycles.

The book that accompanies the oracle is a good read in and of itself. Rather than providing a compact size image of each of the cards, the book shows each in full size and full color. Tempest has taken the time to meticulously explore each of the cards, encouraging the reader to explore further.

Tempest has taken the time to the explain the use of the oracle for meditation and self-transformation. In her own words, “The deck was crafted with the intention of being a tool to tap into liminal realms and commune with spirits.” In a lengthy discussion of doing just this, Tempest uses clear language to walk both the novice and the adept through the practicality and spirit of these endeavors. Unlike most books accompanying various decks, Tempest is refreshlingly honest about the use of the oracle for spell work. While it is a short section, the text gives the user a good starting point for spell work.

Lastly, Tempest walks us through the use of the cards as a system of divination. For this particular oracle, she recommends staying away from the single draw divination, leaning towards the multiple card systems. You won’t find the Celtic Cross here. Instead, Tempest gives you the typical three card reading. Her five card draw is an interesting approach to divination.

All in all, this is a vibrant deck with a unique approach, and well worth investigation.

 
 
Reviews/rev-santa-muerte-tarot.jpg The Santa Muerte Tarot Fabio Listrani 

Interest in the mysterious folk deity Santa Muerte appears to grow with every coming year, as the festival of Dia de los Muertos also expands itself further and further into modern pop culture. The recent award-winning Pixar film Coco, itself saturated with art and music inspired by the Mexican ancestor festival, even takes its protagonist into the realms of the Dead.

Illustrator Fabio Listrani, who has been gracing band shirts and comic book covers with his brilliant craft for years, seemed particularly inspired by the Lady of the Shadows, for his new Tarot deck (his second) is a work of brilliance.

A patently gorgeous tarot deck, with each card positively dripping with detail and depth. The artwork is not only fluid, but bold and striking, channeling the art nouveaux attention to detail of Mucha and Klimt, as well as the modern ‘heavy metal album’ iterations of Pushead and John Dyer Baizley. Highly colorful, but not overbearing or bright, with deep, shadowy inkwork making everything pop beautifully.

Of course, if skulls and skeletons aren’t your thing, this isn’t your deck. There are bones drawn on every single arcana, including the wonderfully-designed card backs, which hearken to a blue Aztec motif with the occasional crimson blush of red flowers (and twelve skulls grinning back at you). However, if necromantic meditations help your spirit soar, then this deck may be just what you were looking for.

 
 
Reviews/rev-englishmagictarot.jpg The English Magic Tarot by Rex Van Ryn, Steve Dooley, Andy Letcher 

A nod to British occultists of the early modern period, the English Magic Tarot is a solid deck with a graphic novel feel. It is the collaboration of three artistic minds: Magician and comic book artist Rex Van Ryn, London painter Steve Dooley, and Andy Letcher, Druid and author of Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom.

It is interestingly a period tarot deck — cursorily dealing with historical happenings of the British Isles between Henry VIII’s ascension to the throne (1509) and the death of Charles II (1685). Drawing from such brilliant and enigmatic occult personalities such as John Dee and Isaac Newton, the deck is very animated. Van Ryn’s pen and ink work is highly dynamic, changing perspectives in a way that makes every card dance and bend, while Dooley’s coloring is bold and simple—a series of solid base colors each with a bit of earthy grit to them, keeping the deck’s feel rustic and warm.

The Major Arcana holds some great new twists on classic themes, while we are given a new series of wonderfully illustrative Minor Arcana cards, each with a thick bold border corresponding to their elemental attribution. The Majors remain borderless, but the entire deck from Fool to Page of Coins simply brims with life.

 
 
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Ghosts & Spirits Tarot by Lisa Hunt  

There are a myriad of theme Tarot decks available. Often an encounter with such decks is fraught with forced imagery and a stretch in metaphors. This is not the case with Lisa Hunt’s Ghosts & Spirits Tarot. While you will not find the standard variation of the Rider-Waite imagery, after a close examination of each card and a quick read through of the accompanying booklet, you will realize that this deck’s imagery rather than being forced is a visual reinterpretation drawing on ghostly images from the legend and lore of various cultures.

Lisa Hunt’s deck is standard in one aspect; it follows a traditional structure of 78 cards, with 22 Major Arcana and 56 Minor Arcana Cards. In the Major Arcana Strength is card VIII and Justice is XI, renaming card V the High Priest (traditionally the Hierophant) and card XIV Chains (traditionally the Devil). She also provides us with alternate names for each Major Arcana card, for example alternately naming the Empress as Guardian Spirit, hinting at the meaning and imagery of the card. In the Minor Arcana, she provides us with the typical suits of Wands, Swords, Cups and Pentacles, and conventionally naming the court cards of each suit King, Queen, Knight and Page.

Hunt provides an additional 79th card, which when it falls in a spread indicates that the reading bears closer examination and reflection. This cards, as is the case with the other cards, is rich in symbol with many faces looking back at you almost as if to say, look at this reading with many sets of eyes from many angles.

The booklet included with the deck provides insightful divinatory meanings which if they were presented by themselves would be well worth in-depth study. This is especially true of the insight provided for the Major Arcana. A prime example would be the meaning presented for the Fool, “…Preserve a child-like optimism as you explore new paths, but bear in mind that anything can happen along the way.” This kind of nuance is rarely provided in other quick meanings found in booklets that accompany various decks.

The sepia and muted colors of each card immediately draw you in and you get lost in the beauty of the presentation before you realize that you are surrounded by fantastical images filled with spirits that will speak to you if you allow them but a chance. Each of the cards is thoughtful in its approach to imagery, and only in the rare instance did this reviewer find an image too jarring to make the connection to the divinatory meaning.

The Ghosts & Spirits Tarot is indeed a rare find in themed tarot and well worth exploration by those who would like imagery that is off the beaten path of the Rider-Waite deck.

 
 
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The Mayan Oracle: A Galactic Language of Light, by Ariel Spilsbury & Michael Bryner
Can’t wait to find out what happens at the end of the Mayan calendar on December 12, 2012? The Mayan Oracle: A Galactic Language of Light, by Ariel Spilsbury & Michael Bryner, may have the answers you are looking for. Far from being a doom and gloom exposition of the end of time, The Mayan Oracle explores the end of the Mayan calendar as a rebirth rather than an end – the dawning of a cosmic consciousness. Includes 44 full color cards beautifully illustrated by the artist Oceanna, complete with instructions for harnessing the energy of Star-glyphs to read your own innermost knowledge.