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 anything involves subjective judgment based on various criteria: 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 Wisdom of the House of Night Oracle (ISBN-13: 978-0770433444).
Wisdom of the House of Night Oracle
The Wisdom of the House of Night Oracle was published in 2012 and is based on the fictional world of writer P.C. Cast and her daughter Kristen Cast. The series is a paranormal vampire romance adventure story written for young adults, beginning with the first book Marked, which was published in 2007. Twelve books make up the main story arc, ending in 2014 with Redeemed. A second series, House of Night: Other World, began with its first book, Loved, published in 2017.
From the book that comes with the deck, the creators ask you to, “Imagine … What if you really belonged to the House of Night – not yet marked but still a descendant of the Dark Daughters or the Dark Sons of Nyx, the Goddess of Night? These cards are meant to become your personal connection to the Wisdom of the goddess Nyx and the lessons learned by all of the fledglings” (10). Clearly aimed at the young adult readers, the deck is presented as a way to further connect with the fictional world created by P.C and Kristen Cast.
The deck is beautifully rendered by Colette Baron-Reid, who is also the artist of over five oracle and tarot decks, including The Enchanted Map Oracle Cards, The Good Tarot, and The Mystical Shaman Oracle Cards; just to name a few.
The card stock is excellent; the size is slightly larger than playing cards, which makes them easy to hold and handle. However, shuffling is something of a challenge because the cards are very thick, with a glossy sheen that tends to make them stick together, even after repeated use. I have rather average to small hands (I cannot palm a basketball), so the size of a deck of cards matters when it comes to shuffling them, especially in front of clients. This deck is more square than rectangular, with sharp edges instead of rounded ones, and very high-end print quality, so the images really pop! Even with a high level of constant use, these cards will hold up and keep their quality.
The Wisdom of the Hidden Oracle is a surprisingly useful deck for professional readings, and an excellent deck for public readings, given that its intended audience is supposed to use the deck “when you don’t know what to do next in your life, when you want to see where a relationship is going, determine whether a friend is true or false, how you got to where you are, or perhaps guide you in making another choice altogether” (10-11). While the determinism in some of the above statements may help sell the deck, they can be quite misleading and even harmful in practical application. Cards do not “tell you how it is”, but are rather tools to help you assess situations and make thoughtful decisions that you determine.
It is one of the regular decks I use in my public reading rotation and clients really enjoy the quality of the art. Baron-Reid is very accomplished with her art and her ability to convey the meanings assigned to the words written below each image on the front of the cards.
Visual Accessibility of the Deck
This deck is something of a mix when it comes to visual accessibility, considering that the images most people and animals (cats get prime billing). There are keywords on the card expressing the meaning of the card, so the reader does not have to try to memorize meanings. Baron-Reid does a good job capturing the card meanings with her poses for the cards with people and concepts with her choice of objects.
In card 32, Self-Worth, the woman is clutching herself in a way that suggests protecting and valuing her body and identity. The card of the Moon is a beautiful rendering of the Full Moon, with a black cat below, as a symbol of mystery and unpredictability. In card 20, Fulfillment, she has drawn a glass of wine, presumably blood (vampires vintage of choice) with an uncut pomegranate on one side and a cut open one on the other (the fruit of the underworld in Greek mythology).
Explanation of the Cards
This deck comes with a very nice companion book that is as well designed and easy to use. Each card has two pages devoted to it, one on the left for an image of the card and a bolded quote below the image. Under the Self-Worth card, it says, “When you draw this symbol, you are asked to consider: what value do you place on yourself in your life?” (90). The page on the right provides more description, including questions or statements to help clarify the card for the reader and querent.
As a professional reader who started reading cards for pay in 1992, I can say that this deck is very good for most clients and public settings. There is no nudity, but it is certainly “sensual” and “darkly erotic”, visually speaking. While the deck’s origin is based on a teen vampire fiction world, the concepts expressed on the cards are extremely useful for reading purposes. Professionally, this deck is more visually accessible than many decks, and would actually make a good starting deck for someone interested in learning to read cards. Some additional themes captured in the 50-card deck include Summon, Conclusion, Invisible, Lust, Risk, and Loyalty.
I am comfortable giving this deck a high rating. Clients who have worked with this deck have found it helpful and transformative. They also find its origin surprising, expecting it to be based on some archetypical philosophy of human consciousness and not young adult fiction. This deck is a very nice addition to the Oracle genre and I can certainly recommend it, both as a potentially useful deck to read with for yourself and others, and as a collector deck, well worth having for the outstanding art.