There is something about the packaging of Hay House products. I think it might be their boxes – sturdy, glossy and bright; or maybe it is the cards, often gilded, strong and always attractive. Whatever it is, their new sets always attract my attention on the shelves. This one, The Soul’s Journey Lesson Cards, did just that, although not immediately.
I first saw this deck in a branch of Waterstones but brushed it off pretty quickly. After a few months, the cards, by James Van Praagh, started appearing on an acquaintance’s Instagram account. I’m a sucker for brights and each was a different colour, brandishing equally vibrant mandalas. It was time for me to look a little closer, so I took to Google and then snapped up the last copy from my local WHSmiths.
James Van Praagh has worked as a spiritual communicator for thirty years. Although billed as the voice of the spirit world, these cards are intended for us to link with our higher-self. In short, they allow us to talk to our soul and are designed to assist spiritual growth, with each card drawing on a specific life lesson.
In many ways, this deck is not a new concept. There are many sets out there which offer similar systems. What does make this deck slightly fresher (from this publisher), and what drew me to it, is the artwork by Charlotte Backman. Based in Southern California, Charlotte is a mandala artist. Although a teacher of art and an exhibitor in exhibitions, she says that she paints for the ‘sheer joy of it’. Inspired by nature (cacti, shells, and flowers being prime examples), she is also inspired by the manmade – “Lots of my mandalas have been inspired by the patterns in Persian rugs, classical mosaics, wrought iron, and illuminated manuscripts”.
What is not immediately obvious from the box is that these are handprinted. I think I initially dismissed the set because it looked as though it was computer generated. But when you delve into the cards, you can see Charlotte’s brushstrokes and detail in each and every one. The designs are painted in acrylic, which are then embellished with dimensional paint. At first, you might think that within each is just simple line and shape, but in some of the mandalas, you will find the occasional animal or person.
As with many of these kinds of decks, it would appear that the paintings were born a long time before the deck-idea. In this case it doesn’t really matter, since in most examples, the colours and design of each mandala work well with the titles chosen by James Van Praagh. As has come to be expected from Hay House releases, each card contains a title beneath it’s mandala, accompanied by a small affirmation.
The titles used here are all restricted to just one word. This is one of the things which attracted me to The Soul’s Journey Lesson Cards. It means we don’t have the unfortunate You Are Loved and You’re Not Alone style of titling which I usually find little connection with. If you are wishing to use these cards for affirmation, you can go right ahead and use the printed message at the foot of each card (as well as the longer definition in the book), but if you want to use them for divination, the one-word titles would easily allow for this. Most words are open to interpretation within a reading (Indecision, Peace, Failure, Trust, Surrender) and can be enough to stimulate an intuitive response. The affirmation and book throw positive spins on each, but unlike a lot of Hay House decks, they can be easily ignored here because the title, card’s background colour, and illustration dominate.
I have used this deck on the blog and within my videos on Instagram and Facebook this week. The cards marry up well with other decks: in particular, they bond nicely with the Spirit Messages oracle by John Holland. I have enjoyed pulling one from each of the two sets each day, using them for two-card readings, and they have bounced off each other interestingly. I like punchy decks which do not pussy-foot around, so The Soul’s Journey Lesson Cards have become a quick favourite. What sets this deck aside from many on the market is that the mandalas communicate through shape and colour. You don’t have to think too much about what is going on, so as marketed, their colours and mood do connect with your intuition more readily. Most are very attractive, which makes it a lovely set for your table and a potential crowd-pleaser for those who read for others. In fact, on writing this review, the pile I wished to scan needed to be edited greatly. The box is deceiving, since it’s plain design does not really hint at the beauty held within. The backs of the cards them self should also be noted: showing a series of mandalas floating together like cogs, they are as beautiful as the fronts. Gilded in gold, these cards shuffle better than any other Hay House deck I have worked with.
This is a really interesting deck of cards. While you will be caught under its spell as soon as you lift off the box lid, I believe that the magic offered by this deck will probably best be understood through effort and with consistency. If used enough, the intuitive language of these cards should eventually speak to your soul with ease.
Illustrations from The Soul’s Journey Lesson Cards by Charlotte Backham