I would be lying if I told you that this purchase was a thought-out or considered buy. While waiting for a lift home, I had been browsing the shelves of my local W H Smiths and found this set squashed between a stack of Doreen Virtue packs. I had not seen it before. Standing beside the bookcase, probably looking suspicious, I wrestled to get online to try to find some samples of John Holland’s ‘Spirit Messages’ deck.
There are just four images on the box of this product (including the illustration on the cover) and from what I could see, Hay House provide no visual information on their listing. I ended up fishing through Google images for anything I could snatch up there. I don’t need to see an entire deck before I buy it, but I’ve been caught out like this before (with the Dream Oracle by Kelly Sullivan Walden) and didn’t want another pack I won’t use on my hands. This is one of the reasons why I put these reviews together for other people.
The Spirit Messages Daily Guidance Oracle Deck has been created for connection with spirit. Within these parameters, I guess you could also use it for addressing intuition and psychic hunches. I bought this set for a couple of reasons – because I liked what I’d seen of the artwork and because I wanted something (away from the tarot system) to use for pumping-up my own psychic muscles. You’ll tell yourself anything when you fancy a treat! I wondered if I might even use it professionally.
John Holland has good form. This is not his first deck. Hay House has already published two of his oracles – The Psychic Tarot Oracle and The Psychic Tarot for the Heart Oracle. I own the first, which many reviewers praised. When I was in London after its release, the lady behind the counter in Mysteries (Covent Garden) told me it had flown off of the shelves. With this in mind, I lay trust in Holland. His decks appear less-hurried than others released by his publisher.
John works as a psychic medium. He helps his clients to connect with their departed loved ones, but also uses his gifts to empower an individual and assist with their spiritual journey. In this set, we are encouraged to use the cards to help us hear messages from spirit. In some cards, we might even identify people we know (there are cards pointing to the mother, father, and children). For each card, there is an interpretation in the manual, but also, there is a message written from the perspective of those passed. The initial paragraph is printed on the face of the card too, taking up a third of the card’s space.
What really drew me to this deck was the artwork by Matt Manley. If you are considering using a deck for tapping into another world (through mediumship or otherwise), then you really need its illustrations to arouse and take you to that place with ease. Matt’s work does this for me. It has a photo-real quality, but is layered-up with surreal elements; you will find doorways opening into the faces of its characters and conventional portraits built up with cogs, wheels and other mechanisms. In places, there is a collaged-feel to it. This kind of juxtaposition exists within the way in which Manley works too. Even though his portraits become digital works of art in the end, they begin life as oil-paintings, which have been worked into with pencil and ink. In some pieces, they fade off into the background of the canvas, giving them an even more etherial and dreamlike quality.
As with many decks these days, it would seem that some of Manley’s art pieces existed long before this deck was even a twinkle in Hay House’s eye. For example, the beautiful illustration on the card Reach Out is taken from his oil-painting, Albedo (2009). Another, from Believe, looks like a remodelling of another artwork from the same year, entitled Centring. If this is true for all of the images, I do not know. Does it matter? In this case, no. Even if these pictures had been created without the deck in mind, they have been tied into their card titles convincingly. My problem with Kelly Sullivan Walden’s Dream Oracle was that some of the artworks (by Freydoon Rassouli) had little to no connection with the card meanings and felt forced. In this set, the majority of paintings used are both descriptive enough and abstract enough for a reader to use as an intuitive springboard.
For some, this deck will be too portrait-heavy. Forty-four of the fifty cards contain people (in head and shoulder compositions) and the remainder concentrate mainly on hands. I can see where this could present difficulties for some, but personally, I do like images with people in, so this is not such a problem. In most, something else is going on or details are built into the portrait, giving it an emotional edge or an extra layer of meaning. Even though the cards are coloured with different borders, there doesn’t seem to be any specific reasoning for doing so that I have read. It does boost the energy of the deck though, since some of the images are on the dark side.
At this point, you may be wondering if there anything I don’t like about this set? The best and [unfortunately] the worst thing about The Spirit Messages Daily Guidance Oracle Deck revolves around the artwork. I am really pleased to have been introduced to these beautiful paintings but I cannot help but think how perfect this deck could have been if the illustrations had covered the card, leaving only enough room for their title. The meanings on the base of each card is repeated in the accompanying book, word for word, so are not really necessary. Most people choose their card decks by image alone, so I wonder why publishers do not make the most of the art, rather than leave it fighting with affirmations and printed meanings.
If you are looking for a deck for straight-out-divination, this might not be an ideal set. There are some cards which could be used for such (New Beginnings, Stand your Ground, Support, and Choices) but many have more abstract messages (Nature, Light, Believe, and Soul Power). They’d sit better for one-off personal messages or a boost to your mood.
I think that this is one of those decks which will work well if you let it take the lead. Even though John’s book does present traditional spreads (such as Past, Present, Future), I think it probably works best if we ask spirit (our intuition, or whatever it is you tune into) to guide which cards are pulled and where you place them. Each card has its own voice, which I have found works best without the constriction of traditional layouts or tarot-type rules and regulations.
I see myself using this deck for journalling prompts. It’s subtle questions and answers lean towards gentle personal reflection. However, I can also see it working as a component in my professional readings too. I can imagine using it to open up or close a reading, offering an extra message (from the universe) for the client. As a reader, I try my best to not shy away from the dark corners of real life, so after a confrontational tarot reading, having a client pull a card from a deck like this might just add a little extra hope or advice for them to take away after our session.
© Steven Bright Tiferet Tarot 2014
Illustrations from The Spirit Messages Daily Guidance Oracle Deck by John Holland. All illustrations by Matt Manley. Published by Hay House