Review by Bonnie Cehovet
"The Lakota Sweat Lodge Cards" is a deck of 50 brightly colored cards that carry the wisdom of Chief Archie Fire Lame Deer. They are born of his personal Sweat Lodge experiences, as well as his teachings. The "Lakota Sweat Lodge Cards" are essentially teaching cards, based on the sacred Inipi purification ceremony of the Lakota Sioux.
This deck is a very special collaboration between Chief Archie Fire Lame Deer and three women who shared Inipi experiences and Lakota Sioux spiritual teachings (and who also support each other in a Full Moon Circle and other spiritual rituals). Ann Louise Goulene is responsible for the spirit voices, traditions, card spread guidance and meditation texts; Wendy Meg Siegel is responsible for the card interpretive texts and spread concepts.
The cards are broken down into three divisions: the Sixteen Great Mysteries (aspects of the Great Spirit), the Eight Supernaturals (Planets), and the Elements of the Sweat Lodge. The titles are as follows:
Sixteen Great Mysteries:
Great Spirit, Sun, Motion, Mother Earth, Stone, Moon, Wind Satisfaction & Passion, Thunderbeings, Bison Nation/Man, Bear Four Directions, Whirlwind, Spirit of Man, Ghost, Intellect, The Material
Woman with Two Faces, Spider, Old Woman Sorceress, Goddess of Water, Old Man Sorcerer of the North, Eight Directions of the Wind, Wind, Whirlwind & Storm
Elements of the Sweat Lodge:
Cloud, The West-Black, The North-Red, The East-Yellow, The South-White, Sweat Lodge, Sacred Pipe, Tree of Life, Morning Star, Grandfather's Breath, Sacred Herbs, Prayer Ties, Sacred Songs, Fire Pit, All My Relations, Sacred Mound, Water, Air, Fire, Earth, Swan, Grandmother, Moontime, Mole, Crying for a Dream
The cards are approximately 3 3/8" by 4 3/4". They are of good quality, flexible, glossy card stock. The backs have a 1/8" white border, with a dark green inset overlaid with a white symbolic pattern. The faces of the cards show a 1/8" white border, with a color coded strip across the top, and the card name in white, in the Lakota language. There is a colored strip across the bottom of the card, with the title in English, and the card number in the right hand corner, in white numbers against a black background.
The deck is accompanied by a 177 page instruction book. The description for each card includes a testimony, traditional meaning, card explanation and meditation. The intent of this deck is not that of divination - rather, it is meant to help the practitioner access the creative energies within that they need to help them deal with daily life issues. It is a deck of self-discovery and self-empowerment. Through the use of these cards, we are lead to a greater understanding of our being and our purpose, and a better understanding of how to walk the balance between the conscious (physical) world and the world of Spirit.
It is important to talk a bit about the authors. Chief Archie Fire Lame Deer is more than an author, and more than a medicine man. He is a full-blooded Sioux, and a medicine man coming from a line of medicine men (his father and grandfather). He is a lecturer on the Sioux religion and culture, and has been deeply involved in bringing Native religion into jails, and in reforming the laws that allow medicine men into prisons to conduct ceremonies. He has also been active in alcohol recovery programs for Native Americans.
Helene Sarkis is a designer who has worked on numerous Native American projects, several of them with Archie Fire Lame Deer. Interest in and feeling for the Lakota way began with a vision she received during her first sweat lodge ceremony - a ceremony that she was afraid that she was not going to be able to attend, due to ill health. Her story is included in the preface to the book that accompanies "The Lakota Sweat Lodge Cards".
The book that accompanies the deck is outstanding ... there is no other word for it. A fine job has been done in introducing the place that the Inipi Purification ceremony holds in Sioux tradition, the concepts of the three levels of cards, and the Sioux wisdom contained within the cards. There is an incredibly well done mandala called the Wheel of the Lodge, showing the Four Directions and the placement of the energies that each of the cards represents.
There is a short section on divination and synchronicity, followed by instructions on how to best use the cards, including writing out your question, and keeping a journal of your questions and responses. It is also noted that the short meditation that comes with each card may be used as an affirmation, and as a pathway into the heart of one's personal relationship with Spirit being represented.
Instructions are given for a daily card meditation; a weekly card meditation (drawing three cards - one for outer work, one for inner work, and one for spiritual work); and meditations for the New Moon and the Full Moon. This is followed by a variety of card spreads, including the Four Directions Spread (meditation, renewal, clarity, and growth); the Elemental Spread (Fire, Water, Air, and Earth); the Inipi Spread (Fire Pit, Unci, and Lodge); the Grandfather's Breath Spread (heat, water, prayer); the Grandmother's Path Spread (The Firekeeper's Walk); the Tree of Life Spread and the Morning Star Spread. At the end of the book is a pronunciation guide and a list of resources.
The cards themselves are nothing less that magickal - bright colors, myth, and mystery! In Wakan Tanka (Great Spirit) we see an Eagle soaring in the sky over dark cliffs. In Skan (Motion) we see waves of water, a full, fiery Sun, and a Full and Partial Moon. All movement and cycles, all connected. In Unk (Satisfaction and Passion) we see two figures, one male and one female, jointly hold a stalk up to the sky. Both figures show their legs as the trunk of trees, indicating the grounding that Mother Earth gives us - a connection that we all need to honor in all ways. Wakinyan (Thunderbeings) shows a Thunderbird with the antlers of an Elk. In Yum (The Whirlwind) we see a ghost-like female figure in the sky, reaching down to the land and water.
These are more than pretty pictures - they are symbols of the archetypal energies in life. They represent that which is common to all of us, that which we encounter on a daily basis. What better tool of self-empowerment could there be! This deck can be used by anyone, of any age, from all backgrounds.
© Bonnie Cehovet
Bonnie Cehovet is Certified Tarot Grand Master, a professional Tarot reader with over ten years experience, a Reiki Master/Teacher and a writer. Bonnie has served in various capacities with the American Tarot Association, is co-founder of the World Tarot Network, and Vice President (as well as Director of Certification) for the American Board For Tarot Certification. She has had articles appear in the 2004 and 2005 Llewellyn Tarot Reader.