Review: Oracle Alchemy – The Art of Transformation in Life and Card Reading

Oracle Alchemy –
The Art of Transformation in Life and Card Reading

Author: Ana Cortez
Illustrations: C.J. Freeman
Two Sisters Press
ISBN #9780-6923-3869-8

Oracle of Alchemy cover

“The path of the “truth seeker”, the “oracle alchemist”, is a solitary
path, indeed.  The journey must be personal, or it has no value.
And the road is not clear. It is hazy. We are way makers. And we
find “glimmering nuggets” where we will, seekers of something
the main stream never quite understand.”
~ from the introduction

The work of Ana Cortez is inexorably intertwined with that of her father, C.J. Freeman – a writer and artist who illustrated playing decks for divination, and who wrote several volumes focused on card reading with playing cards. In “Oracle Alchemy”, we essentially have a two part volume – Part One referencing the author’s personal journey to becoming an oracle, Part Two referencing unique techniques that can be applied to any method of card reading, using any type of cards.

Part One is titled “Fractured Fairy Tales”, centered around her eccentric, metaphysically oriented father, and her very practical double Virgo mother. Tea parties, invisible friends, and “Howard”, a character that Cortez’ father would play. Being my father’s daughter, I can imagine how magical and important this part of life was!

Stories of learning to play chess at a young age, and soaping windows on Halloween, alternate with family pictures. For me, stories grow feet through pictures. We also get an inside look at how the divorce of her parents when she was seven affected Cortez. “Normal took on a whole new meaning, including eating disorders and entry into the written world of  Carlos Castenada! A large part of Cortez’ life at this time was dealing with her inner demons.

I love the drawings from C.J. Freeman that are interspersed throughout the book. The images come with an explanation of their “source”, and what they represent. I really love the “Carnival of Lost Souls”, which corresponds to the 9 of Spades. How better could Cortez integrate the cards that her father illustrated into the reality of life!

The “way out” of her shadows was to work on both her physical and mental life. She began meditating, and doing breathing work, working with affirmations, and journaling. She found her way back to herself.

Part Two is entitled “Transformational Card Reading”. Here Cortez gets into the power of the cards, spirituality and science melded into one. She discusses preparing for a reading, talking about her own personal readings only being limited by her ability to access something beyond herself, as well as her own personal goals/expectations. In this way boundaries are created within which to work. She also warns against giving too much power to the physical trappings of a reading (candles, flowers, crystals, etc.).

Cortez notes that questions flow from the preparation for a reading. She notes that words have vibration, history, and intention. She advises the reader to ask questions that matter, and to ask them in a simple form. Interesting to me is that Cortez addresses going within yourself as you shuffle, focusing on your breath, and putting your breath into your cards.

The layout, number of cards used, etc. is something that Cortez sees as personal preference. The reader needs to understand the format they are using, so that they tell the story the cards bring out in an intelligible manner. She also advises treating the cards like a book – rather than flipping cards head over tail, take them off the deck from side to side, as turning the pages in a book.

Also addressed are being stuck in a reading, seeing clients as unique human beings, that the red and black coloring in suits reflect yin and yang, that the Nine’s represent doors, and act as opposites within the same color.

I found the information in this book to be easy to access, and easy to work with. It opens up what the tool of reading with playing cards can really be.

Cortez asserts that card reading is a “perfect metaphor” for life, and that “We can have the life of our dreams using card reading techniques.” I see the cards acting as the gateway to the life that we envision. My advice – be open to the wealth of wisdom residing in this little (129 page) book!

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

The Playing Card Oracles

The Playing Card Oracles –
A Source Book For Divination

Author: Ana Cortez
Illustrator: C.J. Freeman
U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
ISBN #1-57281-522-1

By their numbers, suits, and pictures,
The Cards communicate
And begin to tell their story
Each time we shuffle Fate.

This is a highly unusual book – a collaboration between father and daughter, following the father’s interest in playing cards, and playing card imagery. But it is more than that. Through the imagery in the cards (a deck (the Picture Book of Ana Cortez) using the father’s imagery was published, and is available through the daughter’s site – ),and through his extensive study of playing cards, an incredible divination system is presented here. There is one caveat that Cortez states in the very beginning of the book – this is not a Tarot deck, and is not derived from the Tarot in any way. It is a distinct voice of its own. (Note: It is also distinct from other versions of divination with playing cards.)

This is the source book for reading with the 52 cards of the Playing Cards Oracle. The deck serves as a fixed lunar calendar, which Cortez emphasizes when she states that she does not do timing beyond one year – i.e. beyond the innate timing of the cards. The work of the artist, CJ Freeman, evolved over the years. He drew and redrew the cards, with “The Picture Book Of Ana Cortez” being his third complete volume of work. It is recommended that the reader work with the book in pieces, and practice, practice, practice!

In Part 1 the reader learns about card symbolism. The 52 cards are associated with the 52 weeks of the year, the four suits with the four seasons, and the 13 cards in each suit with the 13 weeks in each season, and the 13 lunar cycles in each year. Adding up t he numbers for the cards in each suit comes to 91, the number of days in each season. Adding up the numbers of the cards in the deck comes to 364, the number of days in the Fixed Lunar Calendar.

The colors in the old decks are explained by Cortez to represent the three essential phases of spiritual evolution: black representing fermentation and repentance, white representing transcendence and pardon, and red representing suffering and love.

The numbering of the deck is listed with associations for each of the nine single digits, along with their positive and negative expression. One is Self, Two is Self and Other, Three is Manifestation, Four is Foundation, Five is Crossroads, Six is Harmony, Seven is Challenge, Eight is Fortification, and Nine is Final Challenge.

Each of the four suits (Diamonds, Hearts, Clubs, and Spades) is listed with the following associations: Magical Name, Element, Direction, Season, Phase of Life, Principle Body Part, Compatible Suit, and Key Concepts. Each suit also presented with a short discussion oh how it exhibits itself in life, followed by a lovely poem by CJ Freeman. Poetry and stories from Mr. Freeman are interspersed throughout the book, and are a great joy to read. Aside from his wonderful artistic sense, Mr. Freeman has an incredible ability to see with his heart and soul. He is one of the world’s great teachers.

Each card is presented with its magical name, a black and white illustration, the key concepts, a discussion of the card,and a story written by Mr. Freeman. By going into myth we see the power behind the cards. An example of key concepts would be the following, for the Ace of Diamonds: “potential for communication,speaking and writing; a strong sense of self and a person’s own individuality, the ego; the will to do, to achieve; spiritual values and transformation; an engagement ring, a diamond”.

While the Ten’s might be considered part of the Pips, or numbered cards, in this system they are considered the first of the Court Cards. Referred to as the Ladies, they do many things, not the least of which is restoring gender balance to the Court Cards (the Jack’s are male, the Queen’s female, and the King’s male). They also act as a natural counterpart, or partner, for the Jack’s. In a reading, A Ten and a Jack might be seen as representing a young couple, or partnerships that carry the characteristics of their respective suits. Alone, the Ladies can represent a younger female, or an older female who is young at heart.

The numbering continues on for the Jack’s, who are assigned the number 11. Jack’s are seen as young males, who are very fun loving and adventurous. As with the Ladies, they have a strong drive for independence. As with the Ladies, a Jack alone can be seen as either a young man, or an older man displaying younger personality traits.

Queen’s carry the number 12. They are seen as mature females with a lifetime of experience behind them. Each carries the confidence of her respective suit, and can represent either an older female, or a younger female exhibiting the traits of an older female.

King’s carry the number 13. They are seen as mature males, with nobility and stature. Their strengths are defined by the nature of their respective suits. Kings normally represent older men.

Towards the end of the book Cortez discusses preparing for a reading – creating sacred space, clearing the deck, connecting with Spirit and shuffling. Turning the cards over is important in this system – they are turned over side to side, as with a book, rather than being flipped over end to end. The template presented for reading is a four card template, with different spreads (The Present Spread and The Cat Spread).

Within this system the positions within the spread take on associations with parts of the body and the elements: Diamonds/Fire/The Head, Clubs/Air/The Throat, Hearts/Water/The Torso, and Spades/Earth/The Feet. Each position is discussed, which moves into the next chapter, which addresses suit partnerships, suit voids, generating suit energies, and working with the colors and numbers.

In Part Three Cortez presents the world of geomancy – the figures, formats and planetary rulers. This section absolutely astounded me with its depth of information! (Information that was developed by Cortez’s father, CJ Freeman.)

Part Four talks about connecting with intuition, grounding, and reading the cards for yourself. In this section Cortez presents Reading For The Seasons, which goes on to dissect the Reading For The Seasons, and working with the Mystic Square. (This is her father’s work.) A sample reading puts this information into perspective.

Book Two consists of essays, notes, and commentary on The Playing Card Oracles by CJ Freeman. Mr. Freeman goes into significant dates in history for the playing cards, missing pieces of the playing card puzzle, and the Little Book of Secrets. He also addresses the elements, fortune telling,and the Card personalities.

This is an incredible book, representing an incredible divinity system. Read with an open mind and open heart, try the system out, and see what you think!

© October 2011 Bonnie Cehovet