Adam Fronteras has redesigned the classic Rider-Waite Tarot in a rather sweet little card 'n' book edition for Carlton. The tone is upbeat - in his introduction he observes that Crowley's Tarot painter, Lady Frieda Harris, was wife of a Liberal Chief Whip at the time of her collaboration with the Great Beast - and his explications have sweetened the original glosses by occultist Arthur Waite. Take the aforementioned card XV, the Devil. Waite: "Ravage, violence, vehements, extraordinary efforts, force, fatality ..." Fronteras: "The Devil card indicates that the person should be very careful in the future. He or she is being materialistic and may be excessively under the influence of others ..." XVIII, The Moon. Waite: Hidden enemies, danger, calumny, darkness, terror, deception, occult forces, error ..." Fronteras: "This card often comes up when someone is thinking of writing a book or taking up art as a full-time occupation ... It is a card about intuition, thoughts, and emotions." I can't see the point of looking into the future only to be told: "Hey! You're a fundmentally great person, y'know!"
The Eye of Horus: An Oracle of Ancient Egypt (Piatkus) comes with 25 "handcrafted stone tablets" carved with crude hieroglyphics, plus a little turquoise bag to cast them in. Here I get my first demonstration of true occult power: some mystic force has transferred each image right through to the reverse side of the stone! I shut my eyes, and have a go.
Crumbs, it's Osiris, who, you remember, was murdered and chopped up into small pieces, which were then painstakingly retrieved and reassembled by his consort Isis. Not an especially auspicious omen, you might think, but you'd be wrong. "This is a time of renewal and continuing life," I read. "The stone of Osiris augurs a time of fertility. Life is rich with opportunities, personal growth is available to you ... at this moment, you are particularly open to success." Any lingering doubts are dispelled by the accompanying affirmations: "My life gets better all the time. My body radiates life force, energy and vitality." This is chortlesome stuff, yet at least its creator David Lawson seems to know his Egyptology, guiding us past such obscure figures as Khonsu, Maat and Hapy.
I'm not sure how much useful information you could glean about the Druids from The Druid Animal Oracle. I thought that nobody knew much about what the Druids believed, but Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm assure the reader that "the knowledge of animal powers has by no means been lost - it has simply been neglected and forgotten ..." Their oracle is based on "the myths and stories, the folk customs and sayings, the stone circles and sacred sites, the Bardic remains and historical references ... pieced together and united with common sense and intuition". So they haven't just made it all up then. For all that, they seem curiously modest about their oracular powers. "An Oracle cannot predict a future event," they warn. "We should use [the animal oracle] to discover not what will happen in the future, but what influences or tendencies might exist in our lives..." Well, I suppose the next time you eat a bag of Skittles the first five colours you shake into your hand might represent your life's influences and tendences, with purple, perhaps, as the Sudden Death Skittle.
I can't help wondering why a couple based in Lewes refer to autumn as "the fall", and glean so much of their Druidic lore from the traditions of the Native Americans. Still, Bill Worthington's 33 mystic animals are so beautifully drawn - a wren nesting in a sacred oak, a salmon leaping for a hazelnut - that it's disappointing to draw a card bearing the image of a Sow, even if she does represent abundance, generosity and the love of the Goddess. I think I'll stick to the Skittles.