For some time now I wanted to check out Tony Carmine Salerno’s work. Specifically having my eye on his Spirit Oracle and Universal Love deck (coming up later). While he doesn’t make tarot he’s one of the best known oracle designers of Blue Angel. A good oracle is just as useful for divination as a tarot deck can be. At least, if you have the right deck and are able to tap into your intuition 100% instead of relying on a system. Salerno is one of those (rare) oracle makers embracing both female and male energy.
His Spirit Oracle, quite recently updated, is an interesting choice to review…exactly for that reason. After all, with such an overpowering amount of females in the business males can feel a little left out. Not with Toni Camrine Salerno…I presume.So let’s see if this is indeed the type of art and oracle deck speaking to a larger audience. I might not have the dangly bits covered, but hopefully my eyes will suffice ;-).
No LWB & smaller
Like most Blue Angel productions, the deck comes in a sturdy box with a lid lift top. Though the Spirit Oracle box is a tad smaller than I’m used to when it comes to Oracles. When I opened the box that was immediately explained: there’s no companion book, just a two sided card on how to read this deck and what its intention is. A deck without a LWB isn’t extremely rare, but since it is quite common to have one it might disappoint a few.
A few of the portraits in the Spirit Oracle, also with some difficult titles to work with.
The cards themselves are of course, like most oracles, bigger than a tarot deck but – again – slightly smaller than I’m used. In my opinion that is not a negative. The art still gets plenty of space and the little colored border didn’t bother me here. Due to the sizing they are a little easier to shuffle for the miniature hand-challenged under us ;-). The cards in the Spirit Oracle *are* high on gloss like most oracle cards, so in the beginning they are a little sticky. Card stock is excellent.
The lack of a little white booklet, or companion, might seem like a true miss. However, I am not entirely sure if one would need a companion with the Spirit Oracle. It’s meanings either come from your intuition, based on the art, or from the quotes on the back.
And here the Spirit Oracle offers something different than most. While having both art and quotes on an oracle card isn’t original, having them on *either side* is. Basically the front of the card shows you a painting with a title, while the back of the card is an explanation or story to interpret. This is cool, because it makes them meditative and affirmative as well as a divination tool.
A couple examples of the nudes in this Spirit Oracle, including how their backs function as LWB/interpretation.
However, this is also a minus with this deck. We as readers like our ‘generic’ backs: it means we can’t accidentally be influenced in which card we pick out. That is more difficult with this one, because you’ll either see the – granted – gorgeous art or the text. It only works when you shuffle while not looking. Think: pulling your cards with your eyes closed, or at least not completely fixed on the Oracle itself. It helps the concentration, but it isn’t ideal. What worked for me was to have the text as the backs and keep them upside down. I can also imagine that people think: eh, what exactly is your issue here?
Bold & tough
Now, a little more about the art itself. Tony Carmine makes his own paintings. He’s a true artist that creates from A-Z. The feel of his work is less feminine, despite having many female portrayals with an ‘angelic touch’ and the use of spiritual icons. But, Salerno’s ‘angelic touch’ feels out there. Not airy-fairy, no sweet pinks, not those standard curlicues. No, bold colors, tougher lines, strong combinations, abstracts and the obvious celebration of the female body too. In a way it was exactly what I had hoped. The Spirit Oracle offers an obvious male energy and isn’t ‘soft’.
Several of the most obvious ‘religious’ cards in the Spirit Oracle.
The Spirit Oracle is a rather unexpected combination of art. Toni Carmine Salerno introduces both spiritual and religious icons, next to landscape and abstracts. That means in this deck you’ll see Kuan Yin and Christ together with abstract landscapes and nudes. Honestly: I was a little confused. I can easily link the name Spirit Oracle and its message to guide & heal to Jesus or a Bodhisattva. But then you would expect this to be a thing for the whole deck. And it definitely wasn’t. Salerno is the 100% creator, but I still wonder if this deck was based on a variety of existing paintings or if I just don’t feel the concept as a whole.
I personally have less affinity with the more religious symbols because they can have such a strong connotation outside of the deck and I’m quite sure I won’t be the only one. It is essential to mention though, that all images and quotes are used respectfully. It could be exactly the reason why you want to buy this deck.
There is an agelessness to the whole Spirit Oracle. It is not typical 90s, 21st-century or whatever (this is by the way the renewed edition from 2014). The art comes in all kinds of colors – both primary and pastels. It is a combination of abstract arts and portraits, but they almost all really tickle your imagination. When it came to reading the cards, the combination of art, title and quote on the back made for some very strong answers.
Beautiful abstracts in the Spirit Oracle
Aesthetically, there weren’t any cards I disliked. As with most oracles from the Blue Angel publishing house many of these paintings would suit a living room or bedroom. The Spirit Oracle is no exception. My favorite cards are Opportunity, Free will, Guidance, Emotions, Emotional breakthrough and Healing & instinct. All these cards have both distinctive titles and truly gorgeous art. The ones I struggled with were – as said before – the religious icons and also some of the portrait cards like Electra and The Artist. For those I needed to rely on the text on the back of the cards.
It could very well be that this difficulty is very personal. But portraits with less than forthcoming titles will be harder for more than just your reviewer. So there definitely is a learning curve when starting out. According to the card that explains how to use the Spirit Oracle, this deck is meant for spiritual and emotional guidance. It does talk about inviting the presence of your angels, guides or light beings in order to connect you to do wisdom of your heart. And that’s where I think the name of the Spirit Oracle comes from, as well as the inclusion of divine beings that can inspire us.
Inspirational the Spirit Oracle definitely is. I can completely understand why the publisher chose to renew the first edition published in 2005. As divining tool it is less “what happens this week”, or “if I do A, B, C, what will happen?”, But it is more focused on your inside world. I found that working with it could be pretty insightful. Messages are to the point and it works great together with a tarot deck. They always supported the tarot reading – which is exactly what you need as a reader – and were prophetic on their own.
So saying that this deck is meant for spiritual and emotional guidance is exactly correct. Whether you use one or several cards: readings will make sense. If you don’t get enough at first from the art you can always turn the card around for the text.
Based on the art the Spirit Oracle didn’t always feel as one entity. In the end it didn’t really bother me anymore, because it *is* a strong deck that can be used for divination instead of only affirmation or meditation. If you literally turn a blind eye to the fact the backs are also the interpretational quotes its originality won’t be a minus but a plus. It does ‘feel’ different than other oracles, so if you have been waiting for a more versatile oracle that’s also anything but saccharine – while still inspirational – check this title out.
|Author or artist||Publisher||Publication|
|Toni Carmine Salerno||Blue Angel Publishing||2014|