Newly published tarot and oracle decks arrive on Amazon, Etsy, crowd-funding platforms, and in bookstores every month. Today there are literally thousands of decks to choose from, including out-of-print decks as well as published ones. Reviewing a deck is a subjective judgment intended to help readers determine if they want to own the deck reviewed.
The critical review of a deck for askAstrology 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 Tao Oracle by Ma Deva Padma.
The Tao Oracle Cards
From the back cover of the box:
Next after this publicity
The Tao Oracle is a visual I Ching, a beautiful new tool for self-transformation and personal growth, created by critically acclaimed artist and visionary Ma Deva Padma, who produced the best-selling Osho Zen Tarot.
This brilliantly illuminated and illuminating approach to the ancient wisdom of Tao brings the I Ching into a user-friendly form for the men and women of the new millennium.
“Meditation is that hundred-and-eighty-degree turn that strengthens our capacity to trust, as it puts us in touch with a silent, guiding force that is far greater than ourselves in its wisdom, support, and sustaining capacity. Relaxing into the flow of Tao in its unfoldment is to experience being at home in life. This meditation takes us to what has been called the still point, the center of being, the great silence, the inner Himalayan peaks.” – Ma Deva Padma
The deck is excellent resource for the study and practice of the I Ching.
The card stock for the publication of the deck is medium quality and will hold up with regular, but not heavy use. The cards are larger than standard playing cards, but not so large that they are hard to hold in your hands. Because the card stock is not the thickest available, the cards are very flexible, making them easy to shuffle.
Visual Accessibility of the Deck
The deck, like the Osho Zen deck, is visually accessible. Padma is one of the best artists for capturing a concept and giving it form in art so the viewer knows exactly what is being represented.
As you can see from the sample cards, the Hexagram key words and the art aligned with them is both creative and clear.
Hexagram 4 – Youthful Folly
From the companion book:
In a very real sense, each new day begins as an empty slate. The lessons to be written on it are, as yet, unknown. Some aspects of the curriculum unfold over many years or even lifetimes; others are as immediate as putting one’s hand in the fire and finding out that it burns. (p 52)
Hexagram 24 – The Turning Point
From the companion book:
Nature moves in a continuously unfolding cycle of seasons, and there is no point at which its motion entirely stops. Nonetheless, we can sense a kind of pause that happens on the cusp of these cyclical changes. At the winter solstice, for example, when the period of rest and darkness reaches its zenith and the season of activity and light begins to return, it is as if the whole of nature holds its breath for a moment. (p 132)
Hexagram 49 – Revolution
From the companion book:
The time for revolution is a time of breakthrough, when – often in spite of our own desires – the old drops away and is replaced by the new. No snake ever resists shedding its skin, however uncomfortable the experience may be. (p 232)
Explanation of the Cards
The booklet is quite nice. It is 310 pages of detailed information about each hexagram, including some sample spreads. All cards receive two pages of explanation and two pages breaking down information about each of the six lines that make up the hexagram. The bottom line is number 1, so you work your way from the bottom up.
Traditionally, you determine the lines of a hexagram casting yarrow sticks or three coins. Based on the four possible outcomes, you can get a solid unchanging line, a solid changing line, a broken unchanging line, and a broken changing line. Wherever you have a changing line, you would focus on the meaning of that line in the hexagram.
Since the cards do not, and cannot, take advantage of this result from casting yarrow sticks or coins, it is important to read all six-line entries to understand how the card applies and where you may need to emphasize your energy.
As a professional reader who started reading cards for pay in 1992, I can say that this deck does work well thanks to the visually accessible artwork and keywords. But to truly master this deck, you will have to dig deeply into the I Ching meanings and understand the interactions of the eight trigrams that stack on top of each other, two at a time, in sixty-four combinations, to make up the sixty-four answers to all life’s questions!
Therefore, I would recommend the deck for use, but only after you have put some time into learning how the I Ching works, its origins, and its applications. This ancient tool gets a modern spin as an oracle deck of cards and may prove a more useful tool for learning the I Ching than for doing readings. Casting coins, so you can get the variable lines, is an essential element in the divination work of the I Ching.
While the deck does require significant study to master, it is a visually stunning set of cards. Even if the deck was not used for professional readings, it is certainly one you would want to have in your collection. In truth, I do give it a high rating based on design, art, and the value of the content, but it is not the ideal tool for actual readings. To do the reading process, I would recommend the casting work, determining the hexagram that answers your question, and then pull the card and use the book to understand the answer.