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Thursday, 9 May 2013

Heart of Faerie and Faeries' Oracle

The Heart of Faerie OracleHeart of Faerie Oracle and Faeries' Oracle are the two decks created by artist Brian Froud. The Faeries' Oracle came first (2001). The cards were created from images originally published in his book, Good Faeries/Bad Faeries. Then a few years later, Heart of Faerie came out (2010). Some people have strong thoughts about the differences and similarities between these two decks. I certainly don't think you need one in order to understand the other--they are both stand alone decks. But, to me, they also work together very well. I bought the two of them at the same time last year, so that may colour my opinion, though actually I have worked only with Faeries' Oracle since then, leaving Heart of Faeries until just this week.

There is a subtly different feel to the two decks. Faeries' Oracle seems more ethereal and otherworldly, whereas the Heart of Faerie seems more earthy, or anchored more obviously to the natural world. A large part of this is that the images in the Faeries' Oracle mostly show individual faeries or groups of faeries (Froud likes to draw them piled on top of each other, as if the world absolutely teems with faerie of all types)  in  a dark, empty or indistinct background. This lack of context lends a feeling of separation. Also, in Faeries' Oracle, there is a whole class of faeries Froud calls 'Singers', which are abstract beings of radiant light and energy. (These are actually my favourite images of faerie and I wish he would do a whole Singer deck!).

The Heart of Faerie Oracle, on the other hand, seems to me to show more faerie against a natural background of trees, leaves, twigs, flowers, starry skies. Even those cards with an indistinct dark background somehow make you feel it is the night sky as seen from earth, rather than a sort of cosmic blackness. Also, it seems to me, though I've done no counting and it may just be my perception, that there are more humanoid faerie in Heart of Faerie Oracle than in Faeries' Oracle. These factors make Heart of Faerie feel more earthy to me than Froud's first oracle. When I first got the two decks, having done no work at all with faerie in any capacity, oracle decks or otherwise, I felt more comfortable looking at the Heart of Faerie, and that's why I decided to put it aside and work with the Faeries' Oracle instead. It seemed best, and I'm glad I did it.

Some people feel that the two decks don't work together very well and like to keep them separate. Others shuffle the two packs together and feel they harmonize very well. I quite enjoy shuffling the two packs together, though it must be said that because the Heart of Faerie cards are very slightly larger than the Faeries' Oracle, when you cut the deck you will cut to a Heart of Faerie card nearly every time. People have theories about how this shows the Faerie Oracle faeries are more shy than the Heart of Faerie or that they don't like being mixed in, but actually it just shows that when you grab cards by their edges, the edges you grab will be the edges of the bigger cards. You can't cut to a card whose edges you can't touch. I have briefly considered trying to trim the Heart of Faerie, but it's a fool's errand as the difference in size is so miniscule that trimming would only make matters worse, so best to just leave it. Chronata at AT says that if you shuffle and cut the deck with cards facing up, it is more randomized. I haven't tried that yet.

To give you an example of what I feel is the fundamental difference in these two decks, I've chosen two parallel pairs: The Green Woman and the Lord.

Faeries' Oracle, Froud (2001)
 In the Faeries' Oracle, the Green Woman and Lord (called 'Himself') show distinct aspects of pagan Lady and Lord. The Green Woman seems to be part tree, part deer, part woman -- she's got a couple sets of horns and pointy ears, long, twiggy fingers,and a face that is somewhat goat or sheep-like. Her hair is like animal fur growing out into twigs and branches She has an exuberant confidence because she is fully one with the earth and she has permanence. The Lord, or 'Himself', in contrast, has a more serious, poignant look. He is crowned with stars and looks more delicate and fragile than the Green Woman. His cycle is short, he comes and goes, continually dying and being reborn. He's an earthy star man, a starry earth man -- he comes to the earth, he returns to the stars. Something like that. The Lord ('Himself') seems more 'sympathetic' to me -- we as human beings can relate to his cyclical, finite (if you will) nature. Whereas the Green Woman seems altogether more able to look after herself, thank you very much.

Now compare those images to their equivalents in the Heart of Faerie Oracle. You get the same earth-connection and confidence in the Green Woman, the same pathos and delicacy from the Lord of the Forest, but check out the difference in the tone and feel:

Heart of Faerie Oracle, Froud 2010
Do you see what I mean about the Heart of Faerie being more 'earthy' and less 'ethereal'? We have a strong, confident female force, and a male force with  a deep intensity. Again, compared to her, his image is weaker (the image is less distinct, colours blurred and muted).

It's not entirely accurate to say that the Heart of Faerie Oracle seems more 'human' than the Faeries' Oracle. That's not it exactly. The only word I can think of is that it is more 'earthy'. I do not think that one is better than the other. I like them both. If you are interested in owning faerie decks, I would say these two are essential for your collection. I might even go so far as to say, these could be the only faerie oracles you would ever need. (Until Brian Froud publishes another one!)


  1. Really interesting comparison, Carla! I didn't like the Singers when I first got that deck, but have since come to love them, and chose four to be on my faerie altar for a while. Perhaps because of the title, I've seen the Heart of Faerie as being more about relationship and connection, which I guess are quite earthy concerns... And I love that these decks are not just pretty girly faeries!

    1. I didn't like the Singers at first, but it didn't take me long to warm to them, and then to be completely captivated by them. :)

  2. I found a solution for better mixing the decks: Sandpaper!

    I shuffled both together, sandpapered the edges, sandpapered some more, then took out the Heart of Faerie and sandpapered it again and again. I might have to repeat it, but now when I cut the chances of doing it on cards of either deck are a lot closer to even Steven... :D