Monday, February 24, 2014

Two New Oracle Decks

The Ninefold Druid Oracle Deck
I have been working for some while on a oracle deck that would fit inside a more archaic, northern European system. I raised myself on the Tarot, but it’s very late-period and hermetic content has pushed it further and further from my mind over the years. I need something that works in my current symbolic universe.

I settled on using nine key symbols from our ADF system: Gods, Dead and Sidhe – the Three Kindreds of Spirits; Land Sea and Sky, the Three Realms of the Middle World; and Fire, Well and Tree, the Three Hallows of the Sacred Center. To tell the truth, when I began I was hoping to create a set of runic ‘sigils’ for each category – linear figures that would be used in magic as well as divination, rather like the runes. I hoped for 3 symbols in each category. The fact was that I simply couldn’t get enough expression by limiting myself to three symbols for each category. Too much would be left out.

In the end I devised nine symbols for each of the nine ‘suits’, producing an eighty-one card pack. I got myself to clipping some art and limbered up my photoshop filters, and made an alpha-test set of cards which I had duplicated by print-shops in business-card size. I have presented the material at ADF workshops a few times in the past years, and there have been a half-dozen folks or more working with the system, to pretty good report.

At last I’ve found an on-demand card printer for decks of cards. The quality is nice, and the robot is obedient. As a result I can now offer these decks for sale. Each pack contains the 81 cards of the oracle, a significator card, title cards and a 20-page booklet giving one-line meanings of the cards. Purchasers will have access to the download of the amplified meanings of the cards. This summer a small book will become available, but the starter material is sufficient to allow use of the deck.

Those who enjoy cartomancy and would like a nature-centered, fully Pagan symbol system should find the deck useful. While it is primarily Celtic in perspective it should offer little conflict to other Indo-European Paganisms. Norse and Slavic folks will find little to object to, and even Hellenic and Roman devotees should find it suitable.

 The Tredara Ogham Oracle – A Card Deck for Beginners
The Ogham letters (the ‘h’ indicates that the ‘g’ vanishes, producing the pronunciation “oh-uhm”) are an ancient secret cypher of the Irish Poets and, quite possibly, Druids. In the dawn of Irish letters, as the incoming literate church met the vast oral traditions of the Irish poets and seers, the new scribes invented a method of writing letters easily on stone and wood. The Ogham letters are meant to be drawn on a center-line, the hash-marks running right, left and across it. In practice the ‘center line’ was the edge of a stone or wooden monument, running bottom-to-top along it. These cyphers were used by the poets and Druids of the Gaels to create pillar markers for graves, to inscribe spells on wood, and even to write manuscripts on paper.

The majority of the information that has been preserved on the Ogham is found in the ancient Book of Ballymote. In those pages we find dozens of variations on the standard letters that we use here along with descriptions of custom and lore surrounding the Ogham. It reveals a system of remarkable complexity based on these twenty-five simple symbols.

Modern Celtic Paganism has revived interest in this writing system, and it has inevitably been used as the content for divination by the drawing of lots. Magicians and Pagan priests have always divined the web of fate and the thoughts of the gods and spirits by assigning meanings to tokens, and then drawing them randomly. From ‘drawing straws’ to chickens pecking at grain on letters in the ground, to modern card-reading the drawing of lots is probably the most common basic technology of divination.

I’ve worked with the ogham letters in this way for some time, but I just have an affinity for cards, and they are so very convenient. Recently I’ve found a site that offers card packs on-demand in the way that is done for books, and I’ve prepared a simple deck of ogham cards for my own use, and yours in you like.

The thing that bugs me most about the ogham letters is the utter graphic dullness of the
scratch-line number-code used for the letters. I have trouble holding them in my head. So the cards are prepped, each with the Irish name of the letter, it’s direct translation, it’s tree association, and a short phrase from the ancient “Phrase Oghams” associated with the letter. These notes will not replace serious study, but they should help the student reach for the associations that study builds.


faoladh said...

Very interesting! When I can put it in the budget, I'll be picking up at least the Ninefold.

I've been contemplating a deck that would consist of around 80 card. The main 60 would be the 20 oghaim as expressed in each of the three realms (the way that Erynn Laurie presented them in her book). The remainder would consist of a set of 18 or 20 cards that are drawn more directly from mythic images. I don't think that I'd use R.J. Stewart's set of 19 images extracted from the Vita Merlini (though that was one of the routes that I'd considered), but I also haven't really settled on a set of images yet.

IanC said...

Incidentally, the whole system *is* still archived in the member's area of the ADF site, including printable roughs of the cards. For what one would pay at FedEx Office or whatever, get the real deck :).

If one adds the 25 ogham lots to the 81 cards of the 9X9 (as I've called it for years)and throw in, say, the Fege Fionn and significator cards, one has a lovely 108 card deck. Back are different, though.

The booklets add cost to the kit. I like the 20-pager in the 9X9, bit it added a buck or two to the price.