The Faeries Oracle by Brian Froud and Jessica Macbeth (originally published in Oct. 2000). 66 cards + 208-page book.
I’m not as much of a cards person as others when it comes to divination – I’ve never felt an affinity for tarot (aside from liking the artwork on some decks, but I would not buy myself a deck just for the artwork – that’s just me though, others’ mileage may vary). I’m more of a dice, rune bones/stones, and sticks/stalks kind of gal, and recently I have been learning shagai. I learned how to do a style of divination using playing cards from Mongolia, but it’s pretty involved, so I don’t do it often. However, I have managed to find two decks with which I can truly connect: the Druid Plant Oracle (which I will be reviewing in an upcoming blog) and the Faeries Oracle.
Like a lot of folks my age (30s), my introduction to the Frouds came from watching Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, and the conceptual designs he created for the Henson series The Storyteller. I’ve always loved how the Frouds’ (both Brian and Wendy) portrayal of the denizens of the spirit world focuses not only on the light and astoundingly beautiful, but on the earthy, the dark, the neutral. In keeping with this, nothing is entirely as it seems in the Faeries Oracle – if you’re looking for neat definitions, consistent interpretations, and defined boundaries, you will not find them here. This is a very intuitive deck, and you are encouraged to truly make it your own.
Jessica Macbeth’s accompanying book advises: “Don’t read someone else’s definitions of the cards until you already have some idea of what they mean to you.” (p. 15) My advice to anyone considering buying this set for the first time would be to invest in a notebook and plenty of pens, pencils, crayons, markers, and paints – part of the fun of connecting with this deck is spending time with each card, developing your own meanings, associations, and allowing your spirits to communicate with you. As a part of this, a blank card is included for you to use as a template for your “Faery Guide” card, so you can truly personalise your deck. On pages 18-21 Macbeth provides a series of seven starter questions which serve as a primer for intuitive readings by asking you to choose from amongst the cards the one which appeals to you the most, and the one which appeals to you the least. It’s not a bad idea to use each of these seven questions as a baseline for recording your feelings and interpretations of each card (this is where the doodling supplies come in handy – if you’re like me, some things can’t always be expressed in words). The more you use and interact with the Faeries Oracle, the deeper and more varied the associations become. This is a deck that you can grow with – I’ve been using the Faeries Oracle for 13 years (the deck pictured above is 2.0 – my original deck was given to a friend who lost theirs in a fire), and while some associations have been elaborated on, others have definitely changed.
Because this deck is centered on Faeries and other denizens of the realms of the Nature Spirits (there is very broad representation in this deck), the settings of each card are reflective of different places in Nature, and these settings are as important to the associations of each card as the central subjects themselves. A good way I have found to develop familiarity with the Faeries Oracle is to group cards by setting, and ponder what the similarities mean to you, and whether you can divine a connection between certain cards based on this. There is a great deal of symbolism waiting to be unlocked – because this set is not based on a single faith tradition, there is no one approach to interpretation which is more correct than another. So, for example, I see Card 17/Himself (middle card in the above picture) as representing Bayan Ahaa/Bayan Hangai, but someone else may see him as the Wiccan Horned God, as Cernunnos, as Freyr, or as Tapio. None of those interpretations are incorrect – it’s all in the eye of the beholder! Which brings me to another excellent use for this deck – as a tool for meditation as well as ritual. For those so inclined, each card (or even specific groups of cards) can be employed to help in meditative visualizations, and/or serve as depictions of deities and spirits important to your faith on an altar. For me, certain cards function as a gateway to trance/ecstatic states.
In addition to giving some advice on doing readings, providing sample spreads, and some “starter reading” interpretations, Macbeth also devotes some time to discussing the importance of meditation, grounding/earthing, centering, and ways of connecting with spirit beings (by whatever name you call them) in Part Three (“Going Deeper”). This can be very beneficial for people to read and practise not only for the purpose of more effectively divining with the oracle, but also for general health and well-being. When one is grounded and centered, one is generally better able to survive the 21st century!
In giving readings to others using this deck I have found that people were generally very excited about the images/imagery – they were able to make their own connections with certain cards or depictions of plants/fungi/environments in the cards which deepened the reading for them. The Faeries Oracle works well for both short and more in-depth readings, however, it’s not really cut out (in my experience anyway) for straight “yes/no” situations.
In short – I love the Faeries Oracle!