Seasons of the Witch: Samhain Oracle is the first in an ambitious project to create an oracle deck for each of the sabbats. This deck and the cycle it belongs to are the brainchildren of Juliet Diaz and Lorriane Anderson. Even more than a tarot deck, the art and presentation of an oracle is critical, so let me get this out of the way: the design and illustration of these cards and the accompanying book are phenomenal. The illustrator, Giada Rose, has employed a lovely, stark but beautiful aesthetic consistently throughout. The physical cards are sturdy, beautiful, and are edged with a metallic-red trim that really heightens the atmosphere that the deck is putting forth. The book is printed in full color throughout.
Now, about "the atmosphere that the deck is putting forth". The name of the deck clues you in to what you're getting: to quote the world's greatest witch, Granny Weatherwax, this deck is "[v]ery *Witchy*." Everything about the deck leans in to a gothic (not "goth", mind you) look. With very few exceptions the women are all depicted in flowing black gowns and/or have straight, jet-black hair. Unless I missed it, not a one of the figures represented over 44 cards is smiling. Not that there's anything wrong with that, although if a deck is meant to be capable of indicating the entirety of the human experience to you during a reading, removing happiness from the occasion seems like cheating. Also, while this sort of aesthetic is quite common in our communities, if you happen to be more of a "mundane-presenting" practitioner or simply never bought into witch-chic, this oracle deck may be quite opaque to you. As a mundane-presenting person myself, I did not find this insurmountable but I'd be lying if I didn't occasionally have to do a little extra work to get past it.
"Looks-shmooks," you may be saying, "how is the deck in practice?" Well.... interesting. I do not have encyclopedic knowledge of oracle decks so I won't speak to how common this is, but I found the almost story prompt-like statements on the card to be quite evocative. In a one-card read, for example, I drew "Apples", which says "To taste, one must swallow it whole, and beneath the satin flame hides drowning waters." If you're used to cards that say e.g. "Empathy, Sympatico, Kindness" and nothing else, it's quite a change. A two-card reading brought me The Wolf and Healer. This presented me with two phrases: "Devour the ferocious calling within the howling of your spirit. Run wildly into the freedom of your knowing" AND "Listen as the medicine bleeds through her teeth, a river of mercy blessed by Mother. Seen only by those who hold her mirror." I found myself instantly taken out of the here and now, plunged into my interior self. That's great. However, I mostly found myself launching into stories based on these sentences that, upon reflection, really didn't have that much to do with me. This certainly can be chalked up to operator error; I can only share what I experienced.
The accompanying book deserves special mention. It is beautiful. It is through. It is bloody *useful*. Each card is meditated upon, of course, but the authors resort to poetry, ritual prompts, even recipes as they explore the meanings contained in the deck. If you're the sort of person who drinks deeply of things whenever possible (and I am that person) you will appreciate the extra care and attention that went into this guide.
My recommendation for this deck is strong, if not unmitigated. As I explained, the extra lengths that the writers go to on the cards may inspire you, but they may also impede self-reflection; only you can know if you're susceptible to one or the other. The art is, as we say in my house, "a strong flavor." A quick image search online will get you examples of the cards; take a look and see what you think. Personally, I really enjoyed the art and I think most people will. If oracle decks are a part of your practice, Seasons of the Witch: Samhain Oracle is worthy of your examination.
~review by Patricia Mullen
Authors: Lorianne Anderson and Juliet Diaz
Illustrated by Giada Rose
Rockpool Publishing, 2020
pp.176, cards 44, $29.99