Tarot and Oracle Decks have exploded into the common experience since the 1990s. Today there are literally thousands of decks to choose from, including out-of-print decks and published ones. Reviewing a deck involves subjective judgment based on various critical criteria.
The critical review of a deck involves looking at the quality and size of the cards, visual accessibility of the art, quality of the companion text of the deck, and potential usefulness in professional practice. This month I have chosen to review The Oracle of the Radiant Sun by Caroline Smith and John Astrop.
The Oracle of the Radiant Sun Cards
The Oracle of the Radiant Sun deck was originally published in 2002 and went out-of-print. It has recently (2019) been republished and the new version can be purchased on Amazon. The new deck was $25.64 at the time this article was written. If you can find an original copy, you may have to spend upwards of $200 or more to obtain it.
Next after this publicity
From the back of the box:
The powerful orb of the life-giving Sun has been worshipped from time immemorial. Its regular passage across the sky was used by the ancients to predict events, and this became astrology as we know it today. Now, with this beautifully illustrated deck, you too can follow the Sun’s path across the heavens and use its light to help guide your life.
The oracle has seven suits. Each represents a significant planet as it moves through the astrological zodiac. By shuffling the deck and selecting cards, you will find guidance on any question. This fun-to-use system will shed light on all your life issues.
The card stock for the publication of the deck rather flimsy and will not hold up well with repeated use over time. The original card stock is far superior. The cards are smaller than standard playing cards, so they will fit even the smallest of hands. They are not stiff and shuffle easily right out of the package. One drawback, the cards are “slick” so they slide apart easily and can fall out of your hands when you try to shuffle.
Visual Accessibility of the Deck
The visual accessibility of the deck is better than average, but not as good as the Osho Zen Tarot. The cards use a classical art style similar in some ways to the Rider-Waite artwork or the art style of the Renaissance period. Many of the cards do an excellent job conveying the keyword at the bottom, while some of the cards require the keyword to understand the art.
This deck is a great deck to own if you want to learn astrology. The authors selected an astrology point, matched it with all twelve signs of the Zodiac, and selected a keyword to explain the combination. In the card below, the Sun is in Aries, and the keyword is Assertion. The Moon in Aries generates the keyword: Protection.
In the example of the card above, a soldier battles a dragon. In fact, both combatants are “asserting” themselves and must do battle to find out who is superior. “In fact, Sun/Aries people come into their own when faced with a challenging project” (book with the deck, 28). The number 1 appears at the top of all Aries cards and the number 2 sits atop all the Taurus cards, and so on.
The visual art of the cards is “mature”, making this a rather serious appearing deck, but not what I would term “aggressive” or “titillating” visually. The imagery is not disturbing or erotic thanks to the mimicking of the classical art style. Common archetypes exist on most of the cards and do an excellent job conveying meaning.
Explanation of the Cards
The book is rather comprehensive and not very large, which means the text is very, very small. All cards get two or more paragraphs of text. The second or last paragraph includes the interpretation. Below is the interpretation for the Sun in Aries:
When dealt with in a reading, this card shows that the opinions and wishes of others do not easily sway the questioner and indicates a strong determination to maintain his or her own course in life. The card reveals that the enquirer has a clear vision of what he or she wants and knows how to achieve it. It also indicates the need to work harder and longer than most to achieve success and the respect of others. The danger when this card appears is of acting on impulse.
The cards also have a visual division between the upper part of the card, which contains symbols, and the lower part of the card, which contains a scene.
As a professional reader who started reading cards for pay in 1992, I can say that this deck does work well in public because the images are mostly accessible, but the keywords fill in any gaps the visual art leaves for the viewer. This deck does have universal appeal and application; it is not visually “offensive”, but it is also not visually “daring”. The interpretations for the combinations of the Sun/Moon/Planets and the signs of the Zodiac are very good.
It is one of my top 25 “go-to” decks for public readings where people may be interested in and want to work with an oracle deck and astrology instead of a traditional tarot deck. Now that I am working with clients at a distance, almost exclusively, I offer 3 decks for clients to choose from for their reading when we work on the phone or via Zoom. This deck is a good choice for first-time readings and one I will include in the selection process.
I will give this deck a very high rating. I consider it one of my top 25 decks, and it is inside my top 10 for public readings. It is also in my top 10 for first-time client use. I keep the cards in a beautiful hand-crafted wooden box.
As a professional, I do enjoy reading with the deck and can recommend it as an essential deck for someone with the reading experience, and for a novice. If you are a tarot and oracle card collector or astrology buff, then this is certainly a deck you need to have in your collection.