The Nahualli Animal Oracle is a serious oracle deck honouring animal energies, and their links with Aztec religion and civilisation. The artwork on the 39 cards is in primitive style.
This book and deck set is a class act, from the word go! The outer box is well constructed, with an inner box that slides out (from the side), with a grove in the middle for the cards, and room to place the book above that. The base color of the box is an intense dark blue, with a full color animal graphic on the front.
The cards themselves (a deck of 39 cards) are of good quality, non-glossy card stock. Care will have to be taken in working with the cards so as not to bend or tear them. The cards are 3 1/2" by 5", which make them a bit large for small hands. The backs of the cards have a brownish-red border, followed by a smaller gold border. Although the book does not address this, it appears to me that the bottom graphic on the back of the card (done is brownish-red) is meant to represent the steps of an Aztec temple. Following that is an area of dark blue, followed by an area of intense yellow. Seated on top of the blue area, and surrounded by the yellow area is a brownish-red circle that most likely is meant to represent the sun.
The face of the cards contains the same borders as the back of the cards. The middle of the card depicts the animal energy of the card, often with a graphic above that. At the bottom of the card is the card number and the name of the animal energy represented.
The coloring used in the deck is vivid and bright - lots of oranges, reds, yellows and greens dominating the graphics. I am not an artist, but the way that I would describe the style of these cards is primitive. Quite often the animals take on human characteristics. A few of my favorite cared are the Coyote (quite interesting - we see the Coyote in mid air, as if he were flying, carrying a human literally by the seat of his pants!); Deer (who appears, facing us, with front feet held up in the air and kneeling on on knee); Eagle (who appears as a warrior, walking as if in a human stance) and Jaguar (who appears looking more like a monkey than a cat, seated with front feet in the air).
The book that accompanies the deck is indeed a book - 6" by 9", 183 pages. I always look at the deck before the book, so by the time I got to the book I already knew that I loved the deck! I work with many different energies, and animal energy is one of the foremost energies that I access. I was thrilled to see that the authors were serious in their presentation of both the book and the cards. This was not a project that was thrown together at the last minute so that it could go to publication. The authors state that they work with animal energy in their own lives, and that they teach others to do the same. The book and the deck have evolved over time, as all things that are meant to stay do, in my humble opinion.
The authors give three manifestos that they wished this deck and book to achieve:
1. To improve our understanding, respect and appreciation for animals as unique emotional and spiritual individuals;
2. To honor the Aztec civilization for its many accomplishments, and
3. To resurrect and authentic oracle of the Aztec religion as an instrument for obtaining wisdom, guidance and insight into everyday affairs. *
The deck, as one might now surmise, is based on the Aztec religion. Nahualli is the Aztec term for "shadow soul", the animal double of the human soul. It was the belief of the Aztecs that animals were sacred beings that shared the earth with the gods long before humankind came into being. In the Aztec world, on the fourth day after a child was born the family would be visited by a priest, who would determine the nahualli, or animal nature that was to be the lifelong companion for the child. The energy of the nahualli would teach and protect the child over their lifetime, helping them in the physical and spiritual worlds. This was an highly respected, intense energy bonding.
I am one who loves to see charts, and this book not only has the need for charts, but presents them in a highly organized, readable fashion. The first chart shows the general rules for the pronunciation of the Nahautl language. This is followed by two charts - one for the Lords of the Day and one for the Lords of the Night, with their names, titles, card number and oracle meaning. Following this is a chart of the nahualli (animals), with their name, card number and oracle meaning. My little Capricorn self was in seventh heaven!
There is a brief section going into the Aztec religion, the pantheon of gods and the Lords of Day/Night. This is good background for both understanding and using this deck. The discussion then goes into the purpose of the nahualli, and what place this animal energy serves in our life. The nahualli functions as a teacher, protector, ally, advocate and inner spirit. The more we work with our nahualli, the closer the bond. The closer we are bonded to our personal animal spirit, the more it will be able to teach and guide us. This is not a once a month connection - out animal guides, if we chose to honor and work with them, are with us 24/7, in every aspect of our lives.
Now we get into how to determine our personal nahualli. There is yet another really "cool" chart that gives the days of the week, and the hours of the day. Associated with each day, and with each hour within the day, are specific animals. Find the day of week you were born, and the hour that you were born, and there is your nahualli! Not sure of the specific day of the week you were born on? There is a link given to an Internet site that will determine this for you. I checked - the site is there and it does work. However, using this method, my nahualli is the Vulture, and I am not too sure that I am pleased with this! LOL There is another method given, where the cards are fanned out and one card is chosen energetically (by passing your hand over the fanned out cards). Either method may be used. My gut instinct is to go with the animal that has already shown themselves to be a motivating force in my life, and you may well choose to do the same.
The presentation of the animal energies is very well thought out. Each card presentation gives the card name, the keyword, a discussion of the animal energy, and upright and reversed meanings. From the book:
22 - Jaguar
Keywords: Power, Authority, COurage, Twilight
The Jaguar is the most mysterious, most revered, and most successful predator in Central and South America. Jaguar symbolized the might of Tezcatlipoca, the greatest of the Aztec gods. Not only was he Tezcatlipoca's nahualli, but he was also a god in his own right - Tepeyollotl (Heart of the Mountain). In Aztec cosmology, the first epoch was known as the Jaguar Sun.
Mythology attests to Jaguar's great power and courage. It is said that Jaguar leapt into a tremendous fire built by the gods, and emerged unharmed but for the scorch marks that he now bears. The Mexica believed that as the First Sun came to a close, the humans were destroyed by a race of giants, who were in turn consumed by the Jaguars.
The Jaguar's spotted pelt is often compared to the wonderful night sky, lit up with its incredible array of constellations. The mystical connotations of this nocturnal hunter are often associated with the underworld, the molten fire, the tremendous liquid heat of the center of the earth. The transfiguration of the black Jaguar Black Tecatlipoca, a form of the Greek underworld god Pluto or the Roman Dis.
When Jaguar appears in your reading, there is great power at work on a subliminal or subconscious level. Your conscious mind is often unaware of the workings of your deep mind, but trust that there is a hurricane brewing under the surface and that all the courage and power you need are yours. Authority emanates from your very soul, and t hose around you can feel its pulse. The outward manifestation of this authority may take some time to develop. It will be felt before it is seen, but others will react to its invisible presence just the same. This time will serve as a measuring stick in determining who is your ally and who is not, for those who sincerely want the best for you will appreciate your newfound power in a favorable and supportive way, offering encouragement and respect. Those who have low self-esteem or low self-worth will tend to feel threatened by this inner power of yours and might find reasons to avoid you or may deliberately act against you in surreptitious ways. It's unlikely that they will be directly aggressive, so learn to become more sensitive to the unspoken language of others. Pay attention to how others conduct themselves with body language, facial expression, and tone of voice in addition to noting what they say and what they don't say. This will serve you well during the season of Jaguar's work in your life.
Jaguar's presence not only evidences inner power, but it is an extremely auspicious sign for external success. His close affiliation with the Sun promises a favorable outcome in the issues that have been in your thoughts of late. Jaguar is Nature's most successful hunter, literally at the top of the food chain, and offers the same degree of accomplishment for you. The accompanying requirement is that you must claim it as your own and use this power with integrity and grace, applying it with the focus of your mind and the sincerity of your heart to access your true self, your highest goals, and your best resolve.
Contrary Jaguar is power gone awry. It's power perverted by fear, doubt or anxiety. Remember: an animal totem is a channel that can be directed by your heart. If your heart is gripped by self-doubt or self-loathing, fear, or rage, Jaguar's power will contribute to and strengthen that negative energy. Of, on the other hand, your conscious mind can sense that this nocturnal hunter is near you, then use this time to focus on overcoming your fears, doubts and whatever negativity you may be projecting onto others. **
The end of the book goes into how to ready ones self for a reading - how to approach the cards for best results, how to work in a humble manner with intent and purpose. Several different spreads are provided, along with sample readings for each one.
There is an important difference between this deck and other animal oracles. In using these cards to access the nahualli energy, you are asked to fulfill your part of the "agreement" - to find a way not only to access and work with your nahualli, but to find a way to honor them by working with efforts to preserve wildlife, to support and protect them.
The epilogue, by Marc Bekoff, goes into the magic of the animal world, and how our world needs to be reflective of their needs as well as our own. This sets the tone for my recommendation re this oracle: it is a powerful gateway into another world. If you choose to walk this path, please do so with humbleness, integrity and honor.
Footnotes: *. ibid. pages 3-4. **. ibid. pages 96-98.
© Bonnie Cehovet
Nahualli is the Aztec word for ‘shadow soul’, the animal double of the human soul. According to the authors, these cards are a pictorial representation of the Aztec ceremony to discover a child’s nahualli, or spiritual animal double. This ceremony was held on the fourth day of every infant’s life, and was the start of ‘a lifelong relationship of mutual protection and guidance’ between the animal and its connected human. The person would not kill or eat their nahualli, and in return would receive the animal’s unique strengths and abilities.
The authors of the Nahualli Animal Oracle are teachers of indigenous magical traditions and animal totemism, while the artist has a lifelong involvement with Native American art and spirituality. Together they have created an oracle honouring the Aztecs and the animal world. Unlike general animal decks, this deck includes Aztec symbolism, language, numerology and mythology, and is also intended to increase the appreciation and respect for animals as ‘unique emotional and spiritual’ individuals.
Packaged in an eye-catching, sturdy royal blue cardboard slipcase set, the Nahualli Animal Oracle contains 40 cards and a 190 page companion book. The cards are divided into the 9 Lords of the Night deities, each attributed to a layer of Mictlan, the Aztec underworld, who represent aspects of life, and the 31 nahualli animals. The cards are largish, quite broad, and low-gloss. The card art is very stylised, with an orange-red wood-look border and titles printed (in English) at the base of the cards. The backs have a feathered design is bright red, blue and yellow.
Inside the Nahualli Animal Oracle companion book:
Chapter 1 provides a pronunciation guide and translations, as well as details of the Aztec religion (yes, they did practice human sacrifice).
Chapter 2 is dedicated to helping your discover your nahualli, through association with your time of birth.
Chapter 3, the bulk of the book, is devoted to the card description and meanings. Each card has a large size image of the artwork (it’s even bigger than the actual card), two or three keywords, a section explaining the associations, legends and behaviour of the animal or lord, and the meanings, both upright and ‘contrary’, or reversed.
Chapter 4 outlines ways of the using the Oracle cards, beginning with purifying your cards through a cleansing ritual, how to ask questions, and through five unique spreads. The spreads – Smoking Mirror, Three Graces, Ball Court, Five Directions and Pyramid, are followed by sample readings to illustrate their use.
Chapter 5 is titled ‘The Pact’ and emphasises the need to honour your nahualli, to fulfil your agreement in return for the guidance your receive. The epilogue, by ethologist and animal behaviourist, Marc Bekoff, also reflects on the relationship between man and nature, and the need for mindfulness and respect.
While I found the card meanings and explanations hard to apply for personality insight, as they tend to focus on divinatory meanings and advice, the Nahualli Animal Oracle is an interesting insight into Aztec spirituality and could also be used for guidance and divination.