Written and illustrated by Kris Waldherr, creator of The Goddess Tarot, The Sacred World Oracle deck is a sumptuous feast for the mind and an excellent gift for the upcoming holidays. The cards themselves are pleasing to eye, beautifully illustrated with animals, both real and mythological; pleasing to the hand, nice and thick yet well sized for smaller folks; and further complemented by the rich descriptions found in the accompanying booklet. Waldherr writes, "Oracles bear the double duty of being the message as well as the vehicle to communicate it..."
The Sacred World Oracle is divided into four sections- earth, water, fire, and air. Each suit has a main card for the element, plus ten associated animals. The mythology of each is contained within the booklet, however, merely gazing at the images evokes personal resonances, memories, and inspirations. Two different spreads are also outlined in the LWB, one a past-present-future card spread, fairly standard. The other a five card spread developed by Thalassa of the Daughter's of Divination's San Francisco Bay Area Tarot Symposium ( BATS) was inspired by the ballet Swan Lake is called Black Swan, White Swan. This spread "helps us explore our blind spots - those pesky obstacles we can't, or don't want to see. It also points to the wisdom that lies in front of our noses."
I shuffled the cards, pensating upon it being Day of the Dead. I had a ho-hum Halloween yesterday and had no plans for the new moon this weekend, so doing the Swan reading seemed like a good way to acknowledge the change of seasons and tap into the thinning of the veils. I whispered the names of my ancestors as well as my kin/cats passed, friends who have crossed over and even contemplated my own death, hopefully far into the future. It has been in a time of endings and beginnings, as my daughter started college and I completed my PhD, empty nest syndrome hitting hard after her last visit. Recognizing the new chapter of my life unfolding, I pulled the five cards...
The first card is the black swan, or what you need to see that can get in your way. I pulled I-Earth. A very green card, right away I was aware of the animals suggested not just in the distant mountains but in the nearby copses, a huge oak in the foreground, beautifully framed with vining flowers and a picture of Ivy at the bottom. I reflect up upon how much time I have spent inside my house, working on my studies in particular, especially since my sweetie was hospitalized last spring and we stopped going on our weekend hikes. "When the Earth card appears in an Oracle reading, look for opportunities to take your dreams and turn them into a concrete reality" advises Waldherr. Certainly there is the opportunity to turn my dissertation into a book, changing a thought into form, but I also recognized the message to spend time in the outside world as much as in my interior landscape, and to change my isolation over the last six months into more outgoing, social adventures.
The second card is the magic feather, what you can do about it, and I pull XLIII- The Centaur - half human, half horse, pulling on an arrow notched into a bow, the classic sign of Sagittarius. As an astrologer I reflect that this sign symbolizes the higher mind, higher education, philosophy and travel. Here is the ability to focus on a goal, pull back to take aim, and the follow through. Mercury being retrograde, I notice it is a time of pulling back, with the trust that full moment will be gained after the planets shift in November. A card of being proactive, I feel encouraged to review my long term projects list and initiated some dreams that have been simmering on the back burner.
The third card is the White Swan, or what you need to see that can help you. I draw XXVII- Dragonfly. A lovely woman, maybe from South America, gazes at me, tattooed cheeks, a red dragonfly before her, a jaguar peeping in the background. Several of my students spring to mind, both past and present. The message here is of "unexpected grace found in difficult places". I laugh, this has been my lesson the last two weeks. In The Medicine Cards, dragonfly is a message to confront denials, honor inner truths and to break through any illusions.
The fourth card is also a magic feather, or how to use the solution presented in the card. Now I pull XXXIX- Firefly. I liked the transition from an air element (dragonfly) to a fire element, the ability to change thoughts into action. I grew up on the east coast, so catching fireflies reminded me of my childhood, times past, not an experience I have here now, living in California. Interestingly, the message here is to "seek moments of unexpected beauty that offer gateways for inspiration."
Finally, the fifth card is known as the Swan in Flight, an aerial perspective of the situation which gives an overview of the problems and steps for a solution. I pull II -Cat. Very curious, since I had completely shuffled the cards to pull the first card as the beginning card and the second card as the last, let alone the fact that I had invoked all of my past familiars/cats when setting my intentions. Here we see the Egyptian cat goddess, Bast, in a temple, with cats and kittens all around, even perching on the shoulder of the icon. My personal talisman, again my kin, my family, I am at times ridiculously attached to my cats and find it difficult to leave them for a night, let alone a vacation. The message in the booklet states, "the cat card challenges you to find ways to express your individuality. How can you create more magic and beauty?" Indeed, a good question.
So, personally I avoid using terms such as black/white to indicate problem/solution as it is basically racist if not simply reductionist. I did like the concept of exploring blind spots but wish it was presented in a way that was color blind. That being said, the cards themselves have a wonderful array of images, and although focused on animals, include humans in an international array, from Ganesha to Cimidye. The booklet really covers a gamut of worldwide folklore and hopefully will be expanded into a book. I honor that the author chose to use roman symbols for the cards, reminiscent of the Major Arcana in the Tarot, but I found the need to stop and calculate into western numbers a little tedious and off putting. The backs of each card had a representation of the four elements with the simple inscription, "As Above, So Below". Indeed, a simple reminder that the "function of an oracle remains the same: oracles offer us information. They can provide us with the experience of synchronicity... Our personal experience serve to frame these events, thus releasing information we already possess deep in our psyche."