Review by Bonnie Cehovet
“Voice of the Trees” is a 25 card oracle deck based on the Celtic ogham (the sacred Celtic Tree alphabet). It comes with a 216 page companion book (Voice of the Trees – Companion). The only quibble that I have with this deck is the packaging. The boxes that Llewellyn uses are apt to come apart rather easily. So far, the outer box is intact, but the inner white box that the cards would be kept in has come apart. It would be nice to actually have a nice box to store the cards in.
The imagery in each card reflects a specific tree, with its associated symbolism, lore, spiritual traits, divinatory meaning, and ogham letter. It is indicated on the back of the box that this material is easily adapted to work with meditation, affirmations, tree magic, and use as a guide for personal transformation. The image on the front of the box is that of saille (Willow).
The image on the cover of the companion book shows a warrior, kneeling on one knee, spear in her right hand, shield in her left hand, forest behind her. In her preface, Mueller talks about watching the branches on the polar trees outside of her home. She knew that these branches contained the answers to some deep mystery, and pondered the trees deep roots, mirroring the branches that reached up into the sky.
She also wondered what we have in common with trees, and whether we are part of each other, or are perhaps both part of something greater. She notes that trees give us shelter, that we harvest food from them, we have made weapons and shields from t hem, and used them for fire to keep warm. Mueller notes that it is around these fires that we shared fellowship, stories, and ritual.
Mueller talks about the tree as being a sacred symbol representing t he three mystical realms: the branches reaching into the sky where we access our higher powers; the trunk representing the physical world; and the roots representing the gateway to the lower spiritual realms and inner mysteries. An interesting note here is that knotholes are used by shamans a passageway for spiritual travel.
In her introduction Mueller speaks of the deep wisdom contained within all trees in general, as well as the important teachings that specific varieties of trees have for us. She notes that shamans develop a connection with the trees that flourish in their specific areas. The ancient Celtics developed a simple alphabet for teaching their spoken traditions, called the ogham. The tree ogham assigns three ranks of trees: chieftans, peasants, and shrubs. Mueller goes further into the differentiation, and notes what to expect in the section on each tree: the Celtic name’s pronunciation and definition, the status, letter, divinatory meaning, reversed meaning, symbolism and lore, physical information, and a divining charm.
(There is an important note that the last five oghams in the book were included because Mueller believed that they further contributed to the readings, but it is up to the individual whether they want to use them or not.)
In the section on how to use this oracle, the reader is encouraged to pay attention to how the images make them feel. (I assure you – it would be hard NOT to connect with these images!) Mueller talks about reading the expression on the figures, as well as their stance and gestures. The associated ogham and tree names are at the top of the card, with keywords along the bottom.
Mueller notes that a reading shows the energies in the Seeker’s life at the time of the reading. The reading becomes a map of where the Seeker has been, where they are now, and where they are likely to be heading, were no further action to be taken. Instructions are given on dedicating the cards, as well as creating a crane bag.
In the “field guide” section of the companion book, readers are encouraged to note how the people and animals are interacting with the trees in each card. The images are meant to evoke an emotional response. The divining charm is seen as a poetic gift from the tree, drawing upon the old teachings, as well as the tree’s status.
Each card is presented with a full size black and white illustration, the card’s Celtic Name, Letter, Status, Divining Charm, Divinatory Meaning, Reversed Meaning, Symbolism and Lore, and Field Guide.
At the end of the book is a chapter devoted to Ogham Tree Devotionals, along with a meditation. In the following chapter on Ogham Tree Magic we see how to use the energy of the trees to heal, to find an answer to a question, to create a protection talisman, to bring love, prosperity, unlock success and heal the earth.
Spreads presented include the Dragon’s Eye Spread, the Oak Tree Spread, and the Newgrange Spread.
There is a significant bibliography at the end of the book for future reference.
The cards themselves are 2 ¾” by 4 ½”. The backs are a brownish-yellow, with four trees around a concentric circle in the middle of the card, which is reversible. The card faces show a ¼” brownish-yellow border, with the Celtic name and the name of the tree across the top, with keywords across the bottom. The cards are done in pastels of green, reddish-brown, gray-white, light yellow and light blue.
Every single one of these cards drew me in! However, it is technically illegal (and unethical) to show scans of all the cards in a deck, so I will talk about a few, and show scans of others.
Fearn (Alder), shows a long haired male figure, seated on a little island in the middle of water. He is wearing a yellow shirt with what appears to be a red sash over it. Surrounding him is the forest. The keywords here are oracle and teacher. Gort (Ivy) shows a female figure wearing a green cloak and an ivy headdress. The keywords here are tenacity and self.
Quert (Apple) shows a female figure in a white dress with a black hooded cloak, holding apples in her hands. She is surrounded by apple trees. The keywords here are choice and healing. Coll (Hazel) shows a fish jumping in a stream, with the forest in the background. The keywords here are inspiration and wisdom.
Ngetal (Broom or Reed) shows a female figure dressed in white, with a light green covering over her head. She is sweeping in front of a hut with a thatched roof, with herbs hanging from it. The keywords here are cleansing and vitality. Ur (Heather) shows four hand clasping, bound lightly by a cord. A green valley shows in the background, with a planter in the foreground showing purple flowers. The keywords here are transition and partnership.
Saille (Willow) shows a female figure in a red dress and green cloak, holding a bowl of water in her hands, and looking up towards the sky. Surrounding her is the forest, with an owl in the air to her left.
Duir (Oak) shows an oak tree with a deer standing in front of it. The keywords here are strength and endurance. Tinne (Holly) shows a green forest, with a warrior ghost face set into it, holding an ax. The keywords here are challenge and justice.
Muin (Vine) shows two hands holding a red container. Behind the hands we see a grape vine, loaded with grapes. In the middle of the picture we see the image of a face in the leaves. The keywords here are completion and harvest. Idho (Yew) shows a female figure in a yellowish-white dress, standing in the middle of a tree, stirring a cauldron. The leaves on the tree above her are green. The keywords here are gateway and mortality.
This is a wonderful deck, and a great way to align ones-self with tree energy. It is appropriate for individuals of all backgrounds, and all ages. I read for myself using the Dragon’s Eye Spread – it affirmed what was there, and showed a great prognosis! I was highly pleased! This is said tongue in cheek, as you know. We work with the energy that universe deals us. In my case, it did happen to show a happy outcome.
© 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.