First Impressions: Mystical Shaman Oracle

Monday, 12 March 2018

I am delighted to have an advance copy of the forthcoming Mystical Shaman Oracle here, courtesy of Hay House UK. If you're a Colette Baron-Reid fan (disclosure: I am, but do my best to provide a balanced review) you will probably have been waiting for this for some time, and I'm sure you'll share my excitement. So that you don't have to wait to see more of it, I'm posting my 'first impressions' today and will come back with a further post when I've had a chance to work with the deck more thoroughly.

Co-authored by Colette and Shamanic traditions experts - Alberto Villoldo, Ph.D, and wife Marcela Lobos, this is a 64-card Oracle deck with the theme of 'sacred symbols' which are shared by, and common to, all peoples.
They can be found in the ancient rock carvings in the Mongolian steppes and in the pictographs of the American Southwest. They are the centerpiece of African, Aboriginal, and Andean petroglyphs. They are the heart of the collective wisdom of humanity. *
Before we get into the details here's the official promotional video which gives you a great overview of the artwork and what you can expect in the box(es). 

As well as this video, I had already seen several cards on artist Jena DellaGrottaglia's Instagram feed so I couldn't wait to open the packaging. If you have ever played pass-the-parcel you will be familiar with the delayed gratification I experienced having to remove shrink wrap, a cardboard sleeve, a sturdy (magnetic flip) box with a ribbon, then to remove the guidebook and then open another box with another ribbon to finally get to the cards! It's attractive (white so that the images pop is also my preferred aesthetic) but it did occur to me that it's possible to have too much of a good thing.¹

Extensive packaging aside, I wasn't disappointed with the contents. The cards themselves are the same size as other Hay House oracle decks and have a (photo-friendly) matte finish. They feel good in the hand - not too thick, and no slipping. I know people with small hands sometimes find this size tricky to shuffle, but as a regular user of several oracle decks it's not an issue for me.

The rich colour palette is surprisingly broad while preserving an 'earthly' feel through a predominance of oranges, browns, blues, and greens. The art is just as striking as it looks in the video above, and if you enjoy the other decks by Baron-Reid and DellaGrottaglia - especially The Good Tarot - you will find the imagery feels familiar, although more intense. Here are a few of the pictures that jumped out at me while browsing the deck - the top row looks a little faded due to the bright light in my studio today, but the cards are all of equal intensity in real life.

All art by Jena DellaGrottaglia. Click image to enlarge.  

If you're new to Oracle cards and wondering how they work, it's explained in the book as follows:
An oracle operates by the Law of Synchronicity. The moment when you have a question or need help, the world of symbols is available to provide that help. With a moment's clear request for guidance, you will choose the symbol that can best shed light on the current situation... Symbols have the power to represent reality and the power to engage in the process of transformation - to change reality. 
The book also shows the best way to ask a question and gives worked examples of one-card, three-card, and four-card readings, and explains that "the cards give you a bird's-eye view of the situation. They show the evolution of events and reveal both probable and possible outcomes." Importantly, the probable outcomes are the results of doing nothing to change the circumstances, while the possible outcomes "are the ones available to you when you participate in selecting a destiny that is for your highest good."

Unlike a Tarot deck, which has a fixed structure, Oracles vary in nature at the will of the creator. However, both can provide guidance in the form of single cards, or more complex card layouts (or 'spreads') if you are able to formulate your question well, and to interpret the symbolism of the card(s) drawn.
We can become our own prophets and visionaries. We can converse directly with Spirit, dialogue with the forces of nature, speak with the great archetypes - the ancient gods - without intermediaries. 
I've mentioned the 139-page guidebook already. It measures approximately 19 x 13 cm and includes a message from the authors, a 3-page introduction, and five pages on how to work with the deck. The rest of the book is about the individual cards with full page black and white image plus one page of writing which includes 'The Essence', 'The Invitation', and 'The Medicine' of each card, as shown below.

The Essence is the timeless message within the card and is most likely something you already know (or are at least aware of) with these being universal symbols. The Invitation represents a call to action if the card is presented in the upright position, while The Medicine - the area that needs to be brought into balance - is the 'reversed' meaning of the card.

Considering reversed and upright meanings are given, it is interesting that the backs of the cards are similar but not the same when upright and inverted. I read 'reversals' with some of Colette's other decks, but there is no way of knowing which way up the card will be until it is turned over. It will be interesting to see whether this is noticeable (or distracting) when using the deck for readings - I'll let you know.

Being impatient, I shuffled and pulled a single card before reading anything about the deck. The card  I picked - Lightening - was very intuitive to read. Of course, I already know what lightening is and what it represents, in both the positive and negative aspects. The personal meaning was also clear to me from looking at the image - in fact, it gave me chills. Reading 'The Invitation' paragraph simply reinforced my thoughts and gave a more generalised confirmation of my intuitive 'hit'. If this is anything to go by - from flicking through the book it seems likely - I feel that this will be an easy deck to connect with and to understand and I'm sure it will be an incredibly popular deck.

If you already use The Good Tarot then I think they will work beautifully together too. Keep an eye on my Instagram and Facebook feeds as I'm sure to be working with these decks over the coming weeks.

Mystical Shaman Oracle will be officially released on March 27th 2018, and at the time of writing can already be pre-ordered from Hay House UKHay House and your other favourite booksellers. After pre-ordering, you can pop over to Colette Baron-Reid's website to enter your receipt number for a free meditation download for use prior to reading with the deck.

* All quotes are from the deck's accompanying guidebook.
¹ The packaging is very similar to the mass-produced edition of The Wild Unknown Tarot

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