Oracles lack a systematic approach or have too little possibilities as a divination tool. Were you nodding fervently? Then you need to keep reading, because this review could forever change your mind. I’ve had the pleasure to already review a few oracle titles that go beyond the ‘limitations’ many cartomancers think are part of this deck type, but with the updated The Moon Oracle just released by Eddison Books I’ve definitely found an oracle that’s as systematic as a tarot deck and can be used with pretty much every tarot spread on top its own. Mega bonus: it’s a lunar timing-device.
The Moon Oracle is a creation of Caroline Smith and John Astrop and perhaps it isn’t new to everyone. The deck was first published in 2000 with St. Martins Press and this month put back on the market by Eddison with a phases table until 2032 and a fresh, modern exterior.
Unboxing part I
The deck comes in a gorgeous silver tinted and sturdy box. It is a slipcase in which you can slide the guidebook and the cradle that holds the cards. Besides the title the slipcase has a picture of a full moon surrounded by some sort of mandala and stars reflected on the sea below. It’s a packaging that promises a lot. And I think it delivered.
The Moon Oracle, subtitle “Let the phases of the Moon guide your life”, is a seventy-two card oracle of lunar astrology. That basically means ‘the fluctuating rhythms of the moon’ will be of influence in your divination process. The oracle has 72 cards that are divided into 8 moon phases (for 4 elements), 12 moon goddesses and 28 Moon Mansions. The guidebook has Moon tables with the exact phases of the moon and their linked astrological signs until 2032 (starting in 2016).
These Moon phases and thus the table are particularly interesting because they show the present state of our question, will already lead to part of the meaning and the answer you’re seeking, but they can also be used to check when a solution will have been found, or when the situation you asked about even started. It gives context on top of meaning. And that is just from asking the question on a certain day. After that you’ll be pulling from the 3 stacks again to go deeper into future or necessary actions.
Guide to The Moon
The companion will explain how the deck works in all details, but it is important to know at least a good chunk of that in order to know if this is a deck for you. As said, The Moon Oracle has 3 distinctive parts that each offer a different part of a reading. First those 28 Moon Mansion cards. They can be used in every part of the reading, but usually give you information about what’s ahead, the outcome or ‘vibe’ of the situation or which actions to take if you asked for guidance.
The name of each card gives a simplified clue to the understanding of said Mansion, but to know what they’re really about is derived from astrology and those interpretations can be found in the book at first given in the companion. After a while you might be able to read from the images alone, but before that: book. Also: the combination of Moon Phase and Moon Mansion – which happens in every spread – provides a multitude of meanings possible. Especially since those Moon Phases (8 for each element! Thus 32 in total) aren’t kidding around either. They are actually what makes The Moon Oracle go round, so to speak…
The Phases (PPF to the core) have a ‘rule of interpretation’ themselves. These 32 cards consist of several items. There’s the actual phase – like Gibbous Moon, Balsamic, Crescent, Full – that can be pictures as stages of a cycle (more in the guide). Then the 8 stages can be divided into growth and decline – also an influencing a bit of the reading. The Moon Phases have an element attached to them and not only will these ‘colour’ the question your querent (or you) asks, but it makes all the difference in how you answer and give advice.
An air card will have someone focus on communication, meetings or learning, whereas an earth Phase could sway you in the direction of literally building or asking for a loan from dad. Of course there’s then also the zodiac in [planet] and everyone who has ever done a bit of astrology or modalities & tarot knows how much depth that can give a reading. In the Moon Oracle it is combining the elements with their phases that gives an extra divinatory part. It gives you verb and noun. And like I said before: these cards can also be used for timing questions and are the core of every reading. If I were to believe the companion guide you’ll need about 2 hours of decent studying before you can skip the tables in the book to look up what the noun+verb combinations are, but I think that might take a bit longer. And before you really can use the MP cards without referencing the book the amount of in depth readings has surely surpassed counting all your fingers.
That leaves us with the beautiful goddesses, somewhat of a mix between trumps and courts in this deck. Twelve female deities and mythological powerhouses from mostly Greek origin, but there are some Norse and Indian (Hindu) figures and even a Sumerian and Jewish one (hello Lillith). These goddesses have but one very important purpose in The Moon Oracle: to be the final card in a spread and give advice on what role to take in a certain matter, who to embody to make something happen. Not Dear Abby, but Dear Artemis!
Sometimes the appearance of certain goddesses can have you rethink an endeavour. Say you’ve been dying to go pro with your card reading practice, you have oodles of competition and ask how to become successful regardless. The cards could be telling you the time is ripe, to do X, Y and Z. However, at the end of the reading Kali shows up too. Yes, you will get there, but over dead bodies. Maybe even your own. At the expense of others and yourself? Would you do that? I actually had one of those readings… a tough road ahead on a writing project. But, it could bring financial gain with action A and B. And then I saw my final advice: Act like Kali. I knew then I needed to let this project go. A & B were already quite out of my comfort zone, but I could’ve stomached that. Ruthless however…not my style.
Fortune & advice
As you’ve probably figured out by now, The Moon Oracle can be used as a complete stand-alone divination tool and has its own type of spreads. But, you don’t have to stop there. You can basically use any tarot spread in existence or make up your own. The guidebook even shows an example of the Celtic Cross – slightly but marginally adapted. The Moon Oracle is interesting for fortunetellers as well as more ‘therapeutic’ readers who seek just guidance and advice. I personally preferred to use the deck for advice, mainly because I had the impression it simply worked much better like that. Not only is the whole purpose of the Goddesses cards to advice and spring you into (a certain type of) action to ascertain a goal, but the deck has quite the analytical touch. I think because it leans on astrology – and to bring out that overused word ‘intuitive’…it works less like that.
But…if you are all about fortunetelling and preparing for the future, it was indeed and definitely possible to look at the state of *now* and then prophecize what could or would happen. You can even look further back in the past to understand why something is happening in the future. As a result of the versatility of this deck you might even become eager for more Moon-work*, perhaps dive into astrology, combine it with tarot cards – oh the possibilities! Squeee – or even decide to use this deck for queries you’d otherwise used tarot or lenormand for. It is probably the most multifaceted oracle I’ve seen so far. While indeed the word oracle fits best – it is absolutely no tarot, despite the fact you can use similar/same spreads – it definitely is different than any of the ‘regular’ oracle decks that seem to focus mostly on art or theme. It is even 10 steps above the standalone decks with single keywords.
Before I go into the artwork (if that’s all you want to know about, move over to the part that says “Ancient beauty”) I do have to say though, that this versatility comes with a ‘price’ and perhaps you’ve guessed it but that price is time. Creators Caroline Smith & John Astrop provided you with a super handy companion, but that companion is utterly necessary – especially in the beginning. If you raise your eyebrows with readers who have to check their reference books before they give an answer… swallow back that ‘tsss’, because at least for some time you *will be* that reader. Unless you are already fully aware of the symbolism of moon phases, elements, the decans and all the Moon Mansions of course. That way you’ll only need to memorise the Moon Goddesses and you’re golden. If not, it means you will first be a slave to the guide and after that one to your memory. Studying my friends, is what is needed.
And that is simply because The Moon Oracle is a highly analytical deck whose system needs to be mastered before any type of intuition (and trust me: this is not a deck for visually inclined interpreters) can take over or be added. Is that a negative for this deck? To some it might be. For me it made this deck score big, because it proves two things: 1. You don’t have to be some super powerful psychic/medium/’intuitive’ to divine like a pro and 2. Oracles can be so, so much more than just pretty pictures that stir something in my subconscious…or do nothing at all for me other than make me appreciate art (which sadly happens more often).
Tarot & complaint
Regardless of the need to study, (the more analytical vibe is a plus for me) or the less than positive readings I’ve had with it so far, I am totally in love with the whole system. I’ve gotten jaw dropping answers and ‘weird’ coincidences with keywords (typical awesome divination stuff basically) that show that a deck does not need to get the stamp ‘intuitive’ to be amazing in predications or advice. When a deck can give me a “Holy sh*t moment” it is time to pay attention! I’ve done the 2 spreads given in the book and a few tests at random and funnily enough I favour the simple 5-card reading from the book. It gave me the…for lack of a better word…most eloquent and logical results, so I am going to build on that one. But as said earlier: all things (tarot) are possible and as far as I can see most questions (apart from Yes/No, but I am never a fan of those) too.
There is just one thing to complain about and that is the fact that the system of the deck always integrates the date of the question. And that Moon Phase card – the most important cards of any reading anyway – really influences and kickstarts the reading (the present, the why and the when, plus you would link this to the cards next to whenever there is a PPF step, like in the 7 card fortune telling spread). It also means that potential querents who know this deck (or even if you aren’t totally honest with yourself) can sabotage a part of the (outcome of a) answer by requesting a reading on a particular date. It is sad, but we know what some sitters can do. It is just a slight warning to be extra vigilant as a diviner, or to know when you might be too emotional and therefore perhaps not entirely willing to hear the truth. Don’t go checking lunar cycles when pulling out The Moon Oracle in those situations and you’ll be fine!
Now that you know all about the workings, and the good & the bad of this very special lunar oracle, we go to the ugly. Eh…well, actually not. But I mean of course the look & feel you’ve been waiting to hear about. A system that focuses so much on moon phases and the zodiac (Thoth and Golden Dawn readers will see a very recognisable zodiac-wheel with decans in the companion by the way!) is almost expected to show pictures of the moon or astrological signs one way or the other. And that’s the cool thing: The Moon Oracle shows anything but.
The art is quite surprising actually. Zodiac, elements and moons are there, but are merely little signs and tokens set in a much more artistic environment. I would compare the art style on The Moon Oracle to a colourful and slightly more elegant variety of what we could find in ancient civilisations. I think the birth of the Moon Goddesses and paintings back then truly influenced Caroline Smith in her work. Drawings on the inside of the Egyptian pyramids, mosaics and paintings within old temples, Minoan and/or Ancient Greek amphorae…think of those and you’ll start to understand what type of style this deck has to offer. I have the Minoan Tarot by Laura Perry and the LS Nefertari Tarot for example and if you modernise that style a bit, give it a feminine (rounder) touch, stronger lines, more variety in scenery and all with bold (lots of red, terracotta and bright yellow) colours you have your Moon Oracle envisioned.
Normally I would then sigh and mutter about the border this deck has. It is a bit similar to what you would see in a Tarot de Marseille, but with an extra coloured frame in white, grey or a lighter variety of the elemental colour (Goddess, Mansion, Phase respectively) to hold title and any necessary symbols. However, I am not going to sigh and mutter. Borders that do not interfere with the flow of a reading – this deck is not set up to bridge the cards or to get cues from the art – nor clash with the paintings do not trouble me one bit. If you agree or not, is as always up to you…
Designer Caroline (husband John was the conceptual thinker) managed to make each part of the deck a part of the whole Oracle without becoming repetitive. The three divisions in Phase, Mansion and Goddess obviously make up one deck, but they all offer a different character to underline their role within the system and to stay interesting on top of that. The Moon Goddesses are strong, colourful portraits for example that each convey the personality of the deity and the role they are put in. White, red or black circles show the severity of advice you can get – though don’t forget that every person has their light and shadow side, these goddesses too.
Then there are The Moon Mansions: constructions of characters and symbolical backgrounds in a showcase of ancient cultural references and moon symbolism. An English keyword on the card and the arabic astrological name for each Mansion in the guide is a nice touch. Last but not least: the Moon Phases. They could have kept these infinitely simple and yes, in a way they are. But that simplicity is still something to look at. Next to two useful keywords the card also has a row with 8 tiny moons. The actual moon phase is highlighted. The main and middle image is an intricate pattern, a very organic type Mandala in different colours and shapes. Different in all the 32 Phase cards.
Sometimes it looks like a flower, or even a cross section of a plant part (which, come to think of it is VERY interesting if you think about the way they describe the moon stages in the companion). At other times you’re looking at a more typical Mandala shape or even what seems to be a 70s print or abstract painting. All are set against an elemental coloured background – blue, green, red and yellow.
The Moon Oracle gives you something to learn and something to look at, that’s for sure. And the great thing about it: it is also printed on wonderfully smooth and easy to shuffle stock. It isn’t linen, but I could hardly find fault with it anyway. It is frankly just good paper: strong enough, thick enough, flexible enough and nothing that could annoy potential readers. Based on what I know about the ‘average’ reader, I think most will give a yay about this card stock.
Eddison just bumped Red Feather (Schiffer) & Blue Angel from their shared 1st mass-market-card-stock-place (you didn’t know I held score? You’re joking, right?).
I thew my regular reviewing order a bit around to put the emphasis on the whole system of this oracle instead of on the look & feel that is usually the start of my article. Why? Because The Moon Oracle is all about its system. The artwork – if you appreciate it – is simply a nice bonus. If you aren’t into divinatory systems with an analytical touch and don’t want to put some studying in, you can drool all you want over smooth stock and pretty goddesses cards, but what’s the use then?
I have truly enjoyed testing the boundaries of this deck. I understand why Eddison decided to give Smith & Astrop an updated book (table) and re-release. The Moon Oracle simply deserves it. The beauty of the deck is its very strong system with a depth I rarely see in what we call oracles nowadays… It offers the possibility of advice AND fortunetelling. It works perfectly as a standalone divination tool for deeper questions, but due to the way it was created you always have options beyond that. Especially tarot readers (or astrologers) can have a field day with this one.
The Moon Orace is a multifaceted deck that – when all is said and done – also comes in a pretty art package with quality stock. If there ever was an update that deserved a recommendation it is this one. I for one have found it to be a deck that is giving my current Top 5** a run for their money! Now…who wants a reading? And no peeking at the lunar cycle!
* I’ve found a free app (Android) called Moon Phase Calendar. It sounds boring, but it is extremely useful when you’re working with this deck and need a replacement for the book if you, for whatever reason, can only bring the deck. The app can also be used for other moon related rituals and decks of course. Click on the name to go to the recommendation.
** Oracle of Echoes, Shamanic Healing Oracle, Soul Cards I, Vintage Wisdom Oracle and Rumi Oracle are my current Top 5. I’ve written a review on most of them, except Soul Cards since they are from 1996. Click on their names to go to the particular review on The Queen’s Sword.