Toni Carmine Salerno is nowadays a well-known artist and oracle-deck maker, being part of Australian boutique publisher Blue Angel. About 15 years ago he ventured on a new path; painting full time and making divination tools for healing and learning. His first: the Universal Love, which instantly became an example and classic. So much so that an anniversary edition saw the light. This Universal Love Oracle is the one I’m reviewing today.
Those of you who’ve bought from Down Under before know their products. The Universal Love Oracle won’t be any surprise then. It has the same sturdy lift lid top and a decent companion which is (and so is the box) slightly bigger than the cards. In this case the companion has about 69 pages focused on the Oracle with black-and-white cards, the title of the card and a large paragraph that shows what the Oracle is telling you.
The companion also offers a few interesting spreads, like the Unfolding Purpose spread. Most readers who custom design their spreads have a similar one that shows a life path, but you rarely see them in guide books for oracles. I think it is an indicator that the Universal Love deck is supposed to give you more answers than just an uplifting message. But we will see.
Another interesting thing is that Toni Carmine Salerno, in his explanation of how to read this Oracle, seriously wrote down to…ehm.. never take their messages *too seriously*. The card you’ve drawn from the pile might resonate… Or not. Maybe later, or not at all. Time is fleeting. – Et cetera. I was ‘sorta’ confused for a while. And there’s more. According to Salerno: if you initially feel that the message is not for you personally, let it go and move on. Toni believes that it is your higher self that guides you when you pick a card. Now, *that* is not a very uncommon approach, but his ”don’t take anything too seriously, use a lighthearted approach and move on if you feel… (..) ” is one that you don’t encounter too often in an oracle companion (or with other card decks for that matter).
Shiny & borders
So, with that idea in mind I took out the cards. Like most oracle decks the cards are larger than average and have that glossy shine – with stickiness as a result. Luckily multiple shuffles’ll make that feeling dissipate. The Universal Love Oracle has its art framed in a thin golden line, with a larger off white border surrounding that one. As always: this is a little too much border for my taste. The combination of the golden-white frame doesn’t add anything to the deck. But fear not if you’re handy with scissors: a borderectomy is easy in this case since the back follows the same lines (just in a different color: purple).
I am also not a fan of the white rectangles that showcase the keyword (think: healing and such). But other than that it’s once again printed on quality paper. All in all you will get a typical oracle sized deck on typical Blue Angel stock.
Female body celebration
The Universal Love oracle celebrates the female body for sure and its heavy on Angels or Angel-like figures. The deck has a very strong feminine energy. But don’t get me wrong. It isn’t soft or airy fairy. It seems like empowering art. I guess girl power divinity that shares the way to healing. Other than a lot of angelic and female faces there is some abstract art to enjoy. Those images all have a nature-y feel.
Think a field of flowers, a sunrise or a mountaintop with trees. Salerno’s decks often have this combination of feminine (and the nude) and abstract, but sometimes there is too much of a difference between these two to offer consistency (that was my one issue with Spirit Oracle). I’m not sure if it is the abundance of angels + serene-looking women and the fact that these bits of nature felt like their stomping ground, but Universal Love does feel like a whole.
Carmine Salerno has a very specific style which has only developed over the years. This deck was his first for Blue Angel and it is still one of his best-selling oracles. In the Universal Love oracle you can see his design esthethique forming. It’s a mirror of his newest work. So fans will like it and if you’re not a Toni- adept… move along.
The usual ‘oracle suspects’ are there in the keywords, so you know what you’re dealing with when you take this deck out for a spin: divine guidance, goddess, spiritual growth, meditation, sorrow, balance, reflection, relationship. And then there are a few that are typical for this deck like Tantric Union, Golden Path, Transmutation, Universal Hearts (the name of the three on the backs) and The Gateway.
So, how does the Universal Love Oracle read? It definitely has a more elaborate function than picking the one healing cards after a session off tarot or Lenormand for example, but there are some limitations as well. The guidebook has some interesting, deep texts to show you and those make you think. You could really weave a story together or find your way through an issue.
The practical issue lies in the subtitle of the deck: Healing Oracle cards. What does that tell you? Exactly: questions need to be focused on healing and learning in the moment. The readings I did with it were insightful, but despite some refreshing and stimulating ‘deeper’ spreads in the companion you’ll figure out soon enough that an everyday life question or general advice on a situation (or relationship) won’t ‘connect’. It’s a ‘personal growth tool’ with some limitations. Not ideal for fortune-telling if that’s what you do.
It was also my experience that you do need the book for meanings. The images are all quite similar notably when were talking about those angelic figures and naked bodies. They’re pretty, but they don’t give much away when it comes to interpretation – but that could be me. And another thing: you can use the titles and keywords on the deck but they don’t always make up a decent sentence. And then you will be leafing through the little companion like a house on fire (well, if you had a client sitting in front of you).
So what *does* it give you then? You’ll get clarity on the emotions behind an issue. It especially gives you clarity about why things might be happening or what it is you need to do to deal. In that case it can be used as a standalone deck and doesn’t needs another type of system. That’s a huge plus. And of course there are some great paintings in the deck and some of them *do* evoke your intuition beyond what is told in the companion… Sometimes.
While the guidebook isn’t very thick the paragraphs about the cards are meaningful and deep. They make sense for life path work. Oh, and they’re easy to read too.
This is the new edition of Salerno’s first deck Universal Love Oracle – the anniversary edition made after 12 years – and a couple of changes have been made. The Universal Love Oracle, a.k.a Healing Oracle Cards, is definitely an improvement on the original cards based on what I have seen online. Cards have been replaced or added and the borders, compared to the original, are much nicer.
Still, it is not his best work. And I think that’s only logical seeing it was his first ever ‘try’. In the last 15 years he has definitely grown as a maker of divination tools and I use some of his other decks with pleasure.
Having said that: Universal Love Oracle remains a classic with beautiful artwork. And if you are one of those readers who focuses mostly on healing or ones to do an extra detailed draw for a client focusing on the why, then this is a deck that is definitely useful. It has definitely passed the tests for standalone but in my humble opinion won’t be at deck that’ll replace more intricate systems like tarot, Lenormand or Kipper. Then again…oracles rarely can. I think, coming back to Toni’s own foreword: it can give you the messages that you need, it can give you guidance from your higher self, but don’t take anything too seriously.
Ps. Due to the white background the white glossy borders of the deck don’t show on the page, but they are there ;-).
Ps. Amazon calls its cheapest edition the Universal Love Healing Oracle: 12th Anniversary Edition. There are also two versions on Bookdepository, here is the cheapest version from 2014. If you just want to find out for yourself which deck(s) to click ‘add to cart’ for, this Bookdepository site link will get you to the homepage.
|Author or artist||Publisher||Publication|
|Toni Carmine Salerno||Blue Angel Publishing||2013/4|