Saturday, 4 October 2014

Deck Review - Halloween Oracle


Halloween Oracle by Stacey Demarco and Jimmy Manton 
(Blue Angel 2014)

I'm growing quite fond of oracles by Blue Angel Publishing. For one thing, they come in a standard size box of sturdy construction and the cards are of consistent style and quality. I like that. I like the way a line of Blue Angel boxes looks lined up on the shelf. We've all got our kinks. 

What's included
Attractive standard size Blue Angel oracle box, black on the outside with orange on the inside, a 36 card oracle deck and an 80 page companion book that fits inside the box. As usual, the cards are smaller than the box and a liner to make them fit is not included. The book fits over the cards and sits snugly inside the box. I was surprised that the deck is only 36 cards as Blue Angel usually includes 44 cards, and goodness knows there is plenty of Halloween material to come up with more than 44 cards! A curious decision.


The deck
The deck attempts to take images and concepts associated with Halloween and give them a divinatory interpretation. The cards are rather large (typical Blue Angel size) and feature black borders and a black back decorated with grey jack-o-lanterns, witch's hats, ghosts, black cats and broomsticks. (The companion book cover is also embossed with these.) This suggests at once that the target market is younger and the tone of the deck is more along the trick-or-treat variety. That said, the subtitle is 'Lifting the Veil Between the Worlds Every Night,' Demarco does talk about being a pagan/witch and celebrating Samhain, and there are cards that fit both themes.


The cards 
I was really surprised to find out Jimmy Manton did the art for this deck. I have the Isis Oracle, and I must say I quite dislike that deck's art, which is similar to what he did for the Gods and Titans Oracle. The Halloween Oracle looks somewhat different, different enough that I didn't recognise him at first, though now that I know the artist I can see elements of his style. I much prefer this deck to those, as far as art.  

I like many of the card choices and am puzzled by others. We have familiar Halloween characters: Werewolf, Vampire, Ghost, Witch, Mummy, Zombie. We have Halloween traditions: Trick-or-Treat, Jack-o-Lantern, Black Cat, Graveyard, Barmbrack, Apple, and Skeleton. Then we get into the pagan/witch/Samhain side with: Cauldron, Ancestors, Hearth, Scrying, Spider, Owl, Lamp, Veil, Underworld. A few associated cards that fit: Death, Winter, Nightsong, Midnight, Dawn. Then there are some curious ones: Eternal Love, Forgiveness, Joy, Invisibility and Lady De Los Muertos. And finally the ones that puzzle me: Skull of Light, Skull of Flowers, Skull of Stars, Skull of Darkness. 

Which brings me to my next question -- what's with the skulls?? In a deck of 36 cards, 8 of them feature skulls. 


What is this, the Skull Oracle? There is so much evocative, eerie, resonant, haunting and beautiful imagery for this time of year and season. Why so many skulls, I ask! It seems odd and, I must say, somewhat lazy. I know Halloween is a festival for remembering ancestors, and we as human beings have a long history of using the skull and images of the skull for that purpose. But wow. That's a lot of skulls. 

Here are some favourite images: 





The book
Each card gets roughly 1/2 page of explanatory text, and as usual with Stacey Demarco, an attempt at a rhymed verse. These are truly dreadful, I must say. Here's a sample: 

Stalking and stomping
Eyes shining and begging baskets
Faces and bodies
that are no longer ours
Laughing, skeletons and candy caskets. 

And

Tis not the end
Though I may pass in the night
I get to do my time over
Though you may get a fright!

Really? I mean, really? Words fail. (Particularly in this case.) 

Other than the verse, each card gets a bit of explanation of the Halloween or Samhain tradition and a divinatory interpretation. To be honest, you don't need the book. The image, title and subtitle on each card will be more than sufficient. 

The verdict
This deck is not likely to lead to any groundbreaking readings, but it is pretty to look at and a nice addition to the seasonal subset of your tarot and oracle collection. (Don't tell me you don't have a seasonal subset!) 


16 comments:

  1. I like the deck but liking a deck is not enough for me anymore to buy it.
    Some decks I think are especially summery like for instance the Joie the Vivre tarot while I think the Wildwood is more for the darker half of the year
    But to be honest I don't; think this counts as a seasonal subset :D

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    1. No, that's not a seasonal subset...I'm trying to develop a Halloween subset. Slow going.

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  2. I like the skulls of light etc, they are very Dia de los Muertos influenced in colours and style. Other than that, agree with everything you say. I quite like the book, too, as there are tidbits in there I never knew, like cats being given to brides in Japan and about Barmbrack, which I'd never heard of before, but was in a novel I read just last week, too :D

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    1. Yes, there are a lot of bits. I'm surprised you'd not heard of barmbrack, but then I'm from a place with lots of Irish ancestry and that may explain it. I used to make barmbrack or as we called it tea brack:

      375 grams sultanas
      250 grams soft light brown sugar
      300 ml tea (strong, hot)
      butter (for greasing)
      300 grams self-raising flour
      1 egg (beaten)
      Method

      Put sultanas, sugar and tea into a large bowl, stir well then cover and leave to steep for at least 8 hours.
      Grease a 1kg/2lb loaf tin and line the bottom with greaseproof paper.
      Stir the flour and egg into the fruit mixture, mix thoroughly, pour into the loaf tin and level surface.
      Bake in heated oven at 150°C/300°F/Gas 2 for 1h1/2 to 1h3/4 until well risen and firm to touch.

      Leave to cool in tin for about 10 mins, then turn onto wire rack.

      Slice and eat with butter. :)

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    2. You could adjust the amounts of dried fruit and sugar, as it is a sticky sweet loaf.

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  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us Carla. The images are very attractive, but I am not a fan of skulls. It would throw me off with readings. That and they make me think of biker dudes instead of Halloween. LOL

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    1. Makes me think of Mexican celebrations...especially that one with the flowers on it.

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  4. My good goats, I had no idea they had published so many oracles! Let me know if you highly recommend any of the others, I am not the best at hitting it off with oracle decks. But... I bought the Halloween Oracle on spec, I saw a couple of cards I really liked, had a credit for Amazon…blah blah…

    I am disappointed, I tend to agree with much of your review. yes it is well produced, although I still find it hard to believe that it was picked up by a publisher… what happened to the art director? This seems to me like a speedy ill thought out mish-mash of assorted cultural beliefs. And yeah, what is with those samey same skulls? The skellies are the same too, with just different decor…. LAZY indeed! As you said only 36 cards, and then a ton of them are skulls.

    Another complaint I have is the use of the Dia de los Muertos imagery in this deck, I kind of think it is culturally offensive to use that in a kind of *PLAY* deck, if you like.

    Halloween could have been done so much better, with some research. There are at least two owls but no bats? I can’t remember if there were spiders and webs or not. That water card is my favourite, the only one I really like. The people cards are the worst form of CGI imho.

    I have not read with this deck… so I should probably do that at least once, just to see. The book, I found to be better than the deck, and the interesting tidbits made the deck seem more like a by product of the book to me. That's not saying the book is great literature or anything, just better than the deck.

    The box is pretty :) It looks nice on the shelf, which I guess is just at well!

    That will teach me to buy Halloween decks at the wrong end of the year, living upside down sucks sometimes.

    Bah humbug...

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    1. LOL! Well, I bought the deck for the pretty pictures as I tend to use oracle decks as altar decorations. :) I will give it a good think and make some recommendations of my favourite oracles to actually use for reading.

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    2. I use the Froud decks and that's about it... like you I use the prettiest cards for decorating my desk, inspiration, altar etc! A couple of Tarot decks I use as Oracles but thats just me being awkward!!

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  5. When I said the Water card, I meant the Winter card! Blooming autocorrect.

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  6. Hello Rowan! I got this deck maybe two, three weeks ago for two main reasons which are quite similar to yours: I liked some of the pictures (especially the Black Cat) and I'm in the process of building up a kind of personal collection of Halloween decks (I've got the Halloween Tarot, which I truly like). The large amount of skulls and the poor rhymes disappointed me as well, though I'm gonna use the deck mainly at some parties and events around Halloween and so I will use the cards I prefer - for storytelling, as decorations and so on. Regarding the fall, like Ellen I find the Wildwood one of the best seasonal deck.
    @raggedpoet: Froud oracles are great! I've got a whole notebook dedicated to them :).

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    1. Hello, Higgiugiuk! Are you still using the Halloween Oracle now, I wonder? :)

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  7. I have a couple of Blue Angel decks, had to jump through hoops and mail order from a specialty shop to get them here in Canada. Maybe things have changed since then as far as availability goes.

    The eight copied skulls--looks like someone ran out of ideas. I don't have respect for deck creators who do this. Lazy, looking for a quick buck is how it comes across, which is probably not the artist's intention.

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  8. This is the fith deck I have purchased after wanting something with a slightly darker feel to it. I do agree that the imagery is nice and I actually like all the skulls.
    The book is very light on in the card meaning department and the rhymes did make me cringe a bit . I think the author was trying to make things sound fun but it was all a bit bubble, bubble toil and trouble.
    In the end I found looking at the cards and really seeing what each image meant to you personally is the best way to use these,you just have to dig a bit deeper than with your average deck and embrace the darker side of your intuition. If you want a guide book to lead you in all your readings look elsewhere.
    Average guide book aside I have found that I really like the cards. If you can let go of connecting them to the Holliday of Halloween ( I know that seems a bit odd as it's the decks theme ) and work with the darker imagery and what this tells you , not the book , I feel there is a good deck with a different style and feel here.

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    1. I completely forgot I had this thing! Thanks for the reminder. :)

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Share your wisdom, please! Comments welcome.