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 is a 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 Halloween Oracle by Stacey DeMarco.
The Halloween Oracle Cards
The Halloween Oracle deck was published in September 2014 and can be purchased on Amazon for $22.31 at the time this article was written.
From the back of the box:
Unleash your inner monster and trick-or-treat your way into a connection with the most magical and scary night of the year: Halloween!
Festivals of the Dead like Halloween have been celebrated for thousands of years across many different world cultures. They serve to honor those who have passed and to celebrate death as a natural part of life and an opportunity to welcome in a new beginning. During Samhain, the ancient Celtic festival from which Halloween originates, the veil between this world and the next was believed to be at its thinnest and so since the very beginning, Halloween has been an occasion for effective and potent divination―a chance to connect with “the other side” or get a glimpse into your future.
Now you can harness the eerie power of Halloween every night of year, encountering black cats, vampires, zombies, witches, werewolves, jack-o-lanterns, skeletons, mummies, and characters from the Mexican Day of the Dead tradition (including Lady de Los Muertos), exquisite candy skulls, and more!
Each of the 36 richly illustrated cards has an accompanying meaning in the guidebook featuring rhyming couplets like those used in ancient storytelling as well as a message of divination for you based on an aspect of Halloween tradition.
The card stock for the publication of the deck is very high quality and will hold up well with repeated use over time. The cards are much larger than standard playing cards, so they are hard to shuffle if you have small hands. They are stiff and stick together right out of the package, so you will have to shuffle them repeatedly to get them to shuffle easily.
Visual Accessibility of the Deck
The deck artwork is quite beautiful, but not visually accessible. Without the keywords below each card name and the booklet that comes with the deck, you would not know the meaning of the cards. Consider the Spider card below. The keywords assigned to the card are community and web-weaving.
From the booklet:
Spiders’ webs can be seen as a symbol of connection, not necessarily entrapment. There is a fine line sometimes between a family or community supporting us and controlling us. This card looks at this discernment. It also suggests you review the way you communicate with the wider community, at work or generally with others and take steps to improve this or do it slightly differently. It also indicates that there needs to be a balance between what you do for yourself and what you do for others … if we give too much to the outside, our strength diminishes and we cannot weave the supporting web for ourselves. (58-59)
The visual art of the cards is “stunning”, making this a rather serious deck. The imagery is appropriate for the theme of Halloween, and there are a number of different renditions of skulls (Skull of Darkness, Skull of Flowers, Skull of Light, and Skull of Stars) as well as skeletons and creatures of the night.
Explanation of the Cards
The book is rather comprehensive and not very large, which means the text is very small. All cards get a short poem next to the picture and three to four paragraphs and one to two pages of text. The poem next to the Skull of Darkness reads:
We may not wish to delve there
The shadows, the darkness,
Yet, when we search, we reveal,
And our power, it has grown.
And for the Skeleton, the poem is:
On the outside is flesh
On the inside is bone
There is strength in vulnerability
In power we have grown.
None of the cards are numbered, so you need to look them up alphabetically. The backs of the cards are a collage of six common Halloween symbols: the pumpkin, cat, ghost, broomstick, witch’s hat, and cauldron.
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 most familiar and arresting, and the keywords are necessary for the explanation of the cards, making it easy for the reader and querent to know the meaning of the card. This deck can be used outside Halloween but is certainly a fantastic deck for readings around All Hallows Eve.
It is not one of my top 25 “go-to” decks for public readings because it is so specific to a time of year. 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 would not be among those three except for readings in October and on Halloween.
Even though I do not see it as a general use deck, I will give this deck a very high rating. I consider it a beautifully rendered deck that has an excellent explanation for each card, which will make readings using these cards memorable for the querent. 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 a deck worth owning and using any time of the year, but especially at Halloween. If you are a tarot and oracle card collector or serious fan of Halloween, then this is certainly a deck you need to have in your collection.