Tarot/Oracle Decks

Graven Images Oracle

Graven Images Oracle
by Natalie Zaman
Galde Press, 2008


With the mass popularity of Tarot decks and other deck oracles, it’s rare that a deck comes out that is truly original, something you’ve never seen before. The Graven Images Oracle by Katherine Clark and Natalie Zaman is such a deck. Beautiful, mysterious, impeccably constructed and executed, this deck is unlike anything I’ve seen before.

The Graven Images Oracle is not a Tarot deck. It is nothing like so many other decks that utilize the well-worn information derived from the Rider-Waite Tarot deck. What it is, is its own very unique creation, an oracular deck based on an original interpretative and divinatory system. The deck is 71 cards, all of which are photos of funerary art — gravestones, tombs, and graveyard statues of saints and angels. This gives the deck its elegant look — cool monochromatic images of stone and iron, at times contrasting with the pale blue skies and deep green trees around them. The names of the cards are resonant and archetypal: Lily, Patience, Anchor, Petition. The deck is divided into five suits — Divine, Mental, Physical, Social and Emotional — and each suit runs fourteen cards, the first seven being “light” or positive cards and the last seven being “shadow” cards.

The meanings for each symbol are derived from a variety of Western esoteric sources, and the layout offered is a six-card Pentagram. For ease of use, each card has a page-long description and divination, as well as a concise “crib sheet” based on suit and aspect only.

As well-constructed as it is beautiful, Graven Images Oracle yielded clear and piercing insights from my first reading. This is not a toy deck! It also lacks a certain universal appeal. While it is absolutely beautiful, hardcore Witches and Pagans may find the Christian and Judaic iconography off-putting. Also, there is a certain melancholy to this deck. This is a natural consequence of the somber art, and the mood it generates is understandable. But even the positive readings seemed sad, while the psychological focus, which works so well for giving this deck its depth and resonance, also invokes mental illness and other pathologies rather easily. It is not difficult to conjure in one’s mind the stereotypical Witch reading with this deck — young and Goth, given to angst and depression — but it would be wrong to write off this deck as somehow shallow or insincere. My dealings with it were powerful and clear.

The Graven Images Oracle deck is a beautiful and brutally honest oracle, not for the faint of heart or Tarot purists. Highly recommended.


RATING: 4½ Broomsticks

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