Review : The Playing Card Oracles – Alchemy Edition

The Playing Card Oracles –
Alchemy Edition

Author: Ana Cortez, C.J. Freeman
Artist: C.J. Freeman
Two Sisters Press
2014

The back story to this series of decks is as fascinating as the decks themselves. Artist C.J. Freeman spent over thirty years doing infinite renditions of playing cards. However, they were not published. Upon his death his daughter, Ana Cortez, took on the challenge (and it was a challenge!) of gathering the material together, formatting them for publication (the original drawings are in oil on canvas), and putting together a companion book. The first edition of Mr. Freeman’s work was “The Picture Book of Fate and Fortune”, followed by a self-published version of “Playing Card Oracles”. U.S. Games published a large version of “Playing Card Oracles” in a large size, then they printed it in a smaller size. The Alchemy edition is being self-published in a large and a small size.

Cortez notes that some of the imagery from the U.S. Games “Playing Cards Oracle Deck” may resemble imagery in the “Alchemy” edition, while some will be quite different. It all originates form artist C.J. Freeman – original, unique work that deserves to be seen.

Both decks come with a companion e-booklet. In the companion e-booklet Cortez notes that playing cards come with a profound language of their own, that can readily be used in the pursuit of self-knowledge and personal reflection. She refers to the 52 card structure of a regular playing deck as reflecting a perfect natural calendar (lunar calendar!). The strength of the illustrations is said to mimic the strength of the cards themselves.  Cortez also notes that we are a “conglomeration of the stars”, rather than reflecting just one star.

From the companion book: “The 52 cards correspond to the 52 weeks of the natural year, the 4 suits to the 4 seasons, the 13 cards of each suit to the 13 weeks of each season as well as the 13 lunar cycles of the year (each of 4 weeks).”

The Court cards are represented in an interesting fashion – as representing 16 basic archetypes for the human personality. I can count too – there are only three Court cards (Jack, Queen, King) in a regular playing deck! The additional card to each suit is the Lady, which provides a sense of balance between male and female energy within each suit. Each suit represents one of the four elements (Fire Water, Air, or Earth), with the element defining the suit, and how the personalities within that suit present themselves.

The suit associations are: Diamonds (Fire), Clubs (Air), Hearts (Water), and Spades (Earth).

The companion e-booklet gives a range of suggested interpretations for each of the cards. (Jokers are included in this deck, and may be used as the reader wishes.) Cards are presented with text only, no images.

Cortez quotes her father, C.J. Freeman, as saying that a playing card deck was a book of stories, unbound. He went on to say that two different authors claimed the “Book of Playing Cards” as their own. Two sisters, one named “Fate”, and one named “Chance”. In the companion e-booklet is included the story: “The Spade Suit, A Story”. So very interesting, as such a nice addition!

I am reviewing a prototype of this deck. Please note that small tweaks are still being made, so that the deck in your hand may have some very small differences from what you see here.

Sherlock Holmes Tarot_0001

The card backs are a brownish-burgundy color, with white symbols. They are reversible. The symbols seem stretched out, as if in a fantasy world. The card faces are a light gray, with the card number (or first letter of the card name for the Aces, Jacks, Queens, and Kings) and suit symbol in the upper left hand corner and bottom right hand corner. The “Ladies” in the deck carry the number 10. The Aces carry the card name along the top of the card. The pips (numbered cards) along the bottom. The Court cards carry the name beside the suit symbol.

I am reviewing both sizes of this deck: 2 ½” by 3 ½”, and 3 ½” by 5 ¾”. The smaller cards were easier for me to shuffle, while the larger cards showed better detail. Both sizes are well done, and could be used for different purposes. (I am using the smaller size for reading and ritual work, while I use the larger size for meditation.) The artwork carries muted colors, which to me is appropriate for this work.

Following are samples from the cards, with accompanying text from the companion e-book:

Sherlock Holmes Tarot_0002

Ace of Spades: Terra Incognita

The words “Terra Incognita” translate as “hidden earth,” giving meaning and yet mystery to this card of power. Spades as Earth define what we experience as physical reality, but the skull depicted here tells of something more. It is the form beneath the form, the bone as it is revealed from beneath the skin. This Ace is about the unearthing of that which is formerly hidden. Because we often fear what we do not see, this card can feel unsettling. It is the revealing of secrets, the harbinger of change. It is transformation, the lifting of a veil. To face the unknown we must call upon deep courage and fortitude. The fearsome, loathsome dragons depicted here must be conquered within oneself in order to pass through the test that is Terra Incognita.

 Sherlock Holmes Tarot_0005

2 Hearts: The Chalice

The coveted vessel of the sacred. To be fulfilled, to receive love and be satisfied. Gratitude. To drink of divine nectar. The uterus. Kundalini and tantric energy, with the snake coiling the stem. Male and female union.

Reversed image (depending on which way card is laid on table) can be viewed as a helmet of protection, divine masculinity, and/or the power to advance under guardianship.

 Sherlock Holmes Tarot_0006

6 of Clubs: The Bridge

The way. The journey rather than the destination. Trust of an uncertain future. A past that is left behind. A choice in the way either the future or past is perceived or experienced. Memories. The ability to overcome obstacles. Forgiveness.

 Sherlock Holmes Tarot_0008

7 of Diamonds: Sword of Truth

The force that cuts through lies or deceptions. Clarity, and the transformation that ensues when touched by truth. The need for prudence and wisdom, as the truth when applied rashly can harm.

 Sherlock Holmes Tarot_0010

8 of Clubs: Wicca

The knowledge of sacred law. Secret activities and hidden knowledge. The power to make manifest. Trust and practical use of intention and intuition. Cosmic justice and intelligence. The power of groups. Power of delegation. Spiritual strength. Crow as a totem.

 Sherlock Holmes Tarot_0012

Lady (10) of Hearts: Bethany

Bethany inherits the moonstone ring from her Father, reflecting the Heart suitʼs affinity with this luminous celestial body, whose deep rumblings pulse through the veins of every member within the Heart Kingdom. She is relentless yet changeable, as the tide itself. This Lady is unique in that she maintains the innocence and purity of a child while embodying the passion and depth of her blood line. Sensitivity. Romance. Gullibility. Focus.

 Sherlock Holmes Tarot_0014

Lady (10) of Hearts: Bethany

Bethany inherits the moonstone ring from her Father, reflecting the Heart suitʼs affinity with this luminous celestial body, whose deep rumblings pulse through the veins of every member within the Heart Kingdom. She is relentless yet changeable, as the tide itself. This Lady is unique in that she maintains the innocence and purity of a child while embodying the passion and depth of her blood line. Sensitivity. Romance. Gullibility. Focus.

 Sherlock Holmes Tarot_0014

King of Spades: Mardoc

A dominating personality, conservative, and direct. This is King of industry, reliable, and predictable. A leader in labor. Slow thinking but decisive in action. Tends to be a loner. Could represent an older bachelor.

I found this deck to be a welcome addition to the world of divination. We are gifted that Cortez took the time to get her father, C.J. Freeman’s, work out there. The companion e-booklet is a good place to start in working with this deck, and can be downloaded with either size deck, but I would also recommend purchasing Cortez’s full “Playing Card Oracles” e-book for more in-depth information. It is available in the www.anacortez.com shop. Packaging for the decks will be shrink wrap from the manufacturer, then placed in muslin bags custom stamped with the Ace of Hearts design and geomancy.

© 2000 – 2015 Bonnie Cehovet
Reproduction prohibited without the written permission of the author.

 

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