The Burning Serpent Oracle
Author: Rachel Pollack
Artist: Robert M. Place
I was very eager to work with the “Burning Serpent Oracle”. Once I had it in my hands, I was impressed with both the quality of the art, and the depth of the text. One would expect no less from luminaries Robert M. Place and Rachel Pollack!
I did the scans for this review immediately. Then the book and deck sat on my desk … and sat on my desk … and sat on my desk. Lenormand style oracles are something that I am not quite used to. I don’t use them in readings for others, and do not use them to expand readings from other oracles. When I read with them (and I do), I do so for very specific reasons. I other words, I don’t use them for “What do I need to know?” type readings.
“The Burning Serpent Oracle” consists of a 40 card deck and a 258 page companion book. (There are four cards added to the traditional 36 card deck – two versions of The Man (card 28) and The Woman (card 29), looking in the opposite direction of the traditional versions, with two bonus cards – Osiris (number 37), and Isis (number 38). I a very special manner, cards 37 and 38 reference the higher self of The Man and The Woman.
Pollack begins her introduction by noting that this is a book about meanings, very specific meanings, based on the 19th century Lenormand tradition. Based on, but not limited to. There is a deeper spiritual dimension to this deck, allowing the reader to access their own personal visionary interpretations. Something that I found interesting was that the cards, while named for a 19th century fortune teller, were actually not published until after her death. I really appreciate that Pollack places emphasis on how the images speak to each other, their ability to form (tell) a story, and how our lives are revealed through these stories. Pollack brings a world of experience to the interpretation of these cards. Melded together are personal stories, pertinent historical information, cultural and spiritual references. How interesting that the Lenormand tradition started out as a game, and evolved into a divinatory tool!
Each card is presented with a full page black and white image, keywords, positive and negative meanings for the card, a discussion of the imagery, and how to interpret the card (the direct meaning, the basic meaning expanded and explored, the larger context, and the potential mystical meaning.
At the end of the book is a section on doing readings, including getting to know the cards, formatting questions, and using both small and large spreads. Sample readings include a five card reading on choosing a house, a seven card reading about death, and instructions on the nine card square technique and a ten card spread. The format for the Grand Tableau (using all of the cards) is also included.
The cards themselves are 2 ¾” by 4 ¼”. The back show a ¼” white border, surrounding the image of Hermes. The card faces show the same ¼” white border, surrounding images that are bordered in brown. In the upper right hand corner of the card is the card number, in the upper left hand corner is the corresponding playing card (i.e. The Dead Tree is card number 8, and is associated with the Nine of Diamonds (9D) ). The card title runs across the top of the card, in black lettering in the center. The styling of the images is drawn simply and clearly, with nice depth of color.
The images in this deck are all about everyday things in our everyday life – clouds, a bouquet, a fox, a bear, mice, a gold ring. They are also about things like a flaming tree, a burning serpent, and a book of life. he meanings in the Lenormand tradition are highly specific (the reader is not encouraged to add their own interpretations) – their reflect daily life with great clarity.
Hermes The Messenger (card number 1, associated with the Nine of Hearts), shows a man on a winged horse. He is wearing a helmet with wings, and carries a caduceus in his left hand. Keywords are messages, something brought, a visit, someone arriving or entering your life, speed, and moving.
The Voyage (card number 3, associated with the Ten of Swords), shows a sailing ship on the high seas. Keywords are good fortune, usually from commerce, possible inheritance, travel, and renewal.
The Book of Life (card number 26, associated with the Ten of Diamonds), shows an open book on a pedestal, with a lit candle behind it. A wreath surrounds the pedestal. Keywords are secrets, whether concealed or revealed, destiny, “what is written”, knowledge, and education.
The Burning Serpent (card number 7, associated with the Queen of Cups), shows a serpent, rising from what looks like a tower, surrounded by flames. The keywords are enemy, betrayal, danger, a smart, possible manipulative woman, spiritual transformation, rebirth or restoration, ancient wisdom, intuition.
The House on the Hill (card number 4, associated with the King of Hearts), shows a quiet, landscaped house. The keywords are happy prosperous home, community, security, and sense of self.
Whether you choose to use this oracle to read for others, or to read only for yourself, it is well worth the investment. We are gifted with the superb artistic and intellectual talents of both Place and Pollack, and we need to make the best of this gift!
© 2014 Bonnie Cehovet