The Secret Language of Animals Oracle has 46 cards with illustrations of threatened and endangered animals. The deck's animal cards are divided into five elements (Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Wood), and there is an extra Gaia card. The deck comes with a full companion book.
The Secret Language of Animals Oracle Cards is artistically well-designed with a nicely organized and thoughtful companion book. Chip Richards, author, and Jimmy Manton, of Australia together work their respective magic by bringing the precious teaching wisdom of our own endangered animals to our consciousness.
The cards measure 3 ¾ x 5 ½ inches, with rounded corners, and the paperback book is very complete at 168 pages and approximately 4 ½ x 6 ¼ x 3/8 inches. The outer design of book, cards and box features the proud lion, with yellow and gold tones. All is enclosed in a sturdy and colorful box. But the oracle cards show a wide range of colors, from the carefully painted art of talented Jimmy Manton—illustrator of no less than five oracle decks, and counting. A number of cards are creatively textured with line designs around the animal figures—drawing which evokes Aboriginal art or tribal batik.
The oracle is divided into five elements; including water, earth, air, fire and wood. Each set of elements has a master element card and eight animals. The final, 46th card, is Gaia, our mother Earth. The message for each card comprises three pages, with a small black and white image of that card. There are key words given for each card, background description of environment and habit, as well as meanings (messages) and a final positive affirmation on which to focus, to breathe in the essential wisdom of that animal.
Each card is numbered, allowing for easy location sequentially in the text, or the reader can find each card page number in the Contents. A number of the animals are from down under, yet not exclusively. The reader will find familiar characters, like eagle, elephant and sea turtle; as well as creatures not necessarily well known—dugong, orange blossom jellyfish, and black cockatoo. The variety of animals--from lowly stick insect to blue whale—evenly matches the wide range of wisdom that is available on our planet and represented by these teaching life companions.
Twelve pages of the book are devoted to additional information about the status of these animals, and three pages listing more information, including websites and contacts to encourage actions to provide conservation and support to these same companion creatures.
A few suggested spreads or modes of reading the oracle cards are detailed in the book; I employed the Medicine Wheel spread of six cards and I found this layout a nice compromise, between the one card draw and the ubiquitous 10 card Celtic cross (the latter given in other sources).
How can you not love an animal oracle deck? From our initial curiosity as children, hugging stuffed animals and watching with fascination at the critters in our backyard, our journey on this planet is intimately connected with our fellow earthlings—whether four or eight legged, winged or fin. The Secret Language of Animals Oracle is educational, planet-wise and user friendly. Two snaps up, a good job indeed!
Thomas Freese: Would you like to share a few specific examples of your intimate connection with animals and nature, from your childhood in Colorado?
Growing up in the mountains of Colorado I spent a lot of time, in all seasons, outdoors. My early memories of connection with nature mostly revolve around an intimacy of relatedness with the elements themselves, which form the sort of major arcana of the Secret Language of Animals series. The elements of earth, wood, stone, air (and lack of it at altitude!) is all in extreme form in Colorado and the water there is incredible because it takes all forms – from intricate snowflakes to wild rushing rivers and crystal clear lakes. Couple that with deep red sunrises and the smell of open fires and you really have constant powerful access the elemental pillars. As a child my connection to the animal world – to eagles and elk, horses and bears - was really inside of this greater fabric of immersion in the elements themselves. Simple moments and subtle shifts with the elements; such as the timing of the sun breaking from a cloud, the first glimpse of a full moon, the way an icicle captured the light—always had a way of informing and capturing my attention.
I also always felt a very deep bond with our family pets as a kid, but I would say my intimate relationships and connection to animals in the natural world launched up to a whole new level when I met my wife Ash 20 years ago. Ash is more naturally connected to the animal world than anyone I know and has always felt more attuned to animals than humans. The connection with animals then took another huge leap when I first started spending concentrated time in the water with whales and dolphins about 10 years ago. Ash, our son Josh and I had a series of very synchronistic experiences in New Zealand, Hawaii, Alaska and Australia that drew us into a whole life chapter that revolved around deep, daily connection with whales and dolphins. During this time we learned so much about ourselves, each other and life that it really expanded the depth at which we connected with all animals.
Thomas Freese: One message that seems to be found in multiple locations in the text to Secret Language of Animals Oracle is the balancing of self-aware solitude with communal action and being; is this emphasis a hallmark of your workshops also and where in our society is that balanced most challenged, particularly with our socialization of children?
I love this question! Indeed I would say that at the very heart of almost all of my work is a passion for helping people access the incredible wellspring of their own true nature and to “Do more from a higher state of Being”. In virtually every arena I have experienced, of life and work in the western world, there is such an emphasis on doing, doing, doing. It’s the first thing we ask people when we first meet them – “What do you do?” Our society has become obsessed with achievement for achievement sake and in many ways this treadmill has disconnected us from our Source, from our true nature and from the path of flow in life. Tangled in the expectations of the world around us we launch into jobs and careers and relationships without really taking time to connect to our center. On the other extreme we also have the development of an incredible consciousness movement that is calling people to stop and reconnect with Self, to be still, to reflect. The pursuit of higher consciousness is often perceived as lofty and noble but potentially airy fairy and ungrounded. So for me the key is realizing that we need both and that when we take time to align our sense of Being to the deeper currents within, the actions that come from this place can be incredibly powerful in the world. And that sometimes when the world is telling us to hurry up and do these ten things on our list before noon, the most powerful thing to do is actually to slow down and allow our self to connect to a deeper rhythm that sees the ONE action that will make the biggest difference, while the others are potentially just distractions. It’s a profound thing to consider that deep sense of BEING or Oneness in Action is actually the most practical way to live… and animals are absolute masters of this.
Thomas Freese: How did you end up creating the Secret Language of Animals Oracle? Would you tell the story of how you connected with the artist, Jimmy Manton?
When I was first working on my book Writing the Story Within, during an early conversation with Toni Carmine Salerno—who is the founder of Blue Angel publishing—I shared my deep connection with animals and how the natural world really informed and inspired my life. Toni asked if I would be interested in doing an oracle series on the secret language of animals– that subtle realm of magic and connection that so many of us walk right past each day without noticing. I instantly I loved the idea. As I reflected on the purpose and intention of this deck, and why it was important, (when there are already many wonderful animal oracles out there, for me what became really clear was to make it a series that captured and honored the voices of our planet’s most endangered animals. Along with the biological necessity of each animal in the great wheel of life, to me each animal carries an energetic imprint that is essential to the balance of our world. If we lose the animal, we risk losing that ‘energy’ from the world. When we deepen our relationship to something our natural instinct is to care for and protect it from harm. My intention with the Secret Language of Animals series really is to expand people’s perception and relationship with these great beings so that our natural response is to be more responsible in our care and stewardship of them and their/our world.
Toni has worked with Jimmy to create another oracle series and we both really love the depth and layers Jimmy brings to his work. There’s a slight edge to many of Jimmy’s paintings too that is feels unique and primal. Along with the beauty and sacredness of these animals and elements, Jimmy also really captures their ancient power.
Thomas Freese: What is your history with the art of divination; had you used tarot and other oracle for some time?
My wife Ash introduced me to divination cards when we first came together and we have often used them in a very organic way in our life. Because the animals are such great teachers of strength, courage, wisdom, love, power, compassion, endurance, (to name a few attributes, in their actual daily ways of being and living in the world, I really wanted this series to be very grounded in the real gifts, qualities and patterns of these animals. Every animal has something that makes it truly unique and has served its survival as a species throughout time. To me, it was important for these grounded characteristics to powerfully inform the more intuitive expression of the cards.
Thomas Freese: There are so many animals, insects and sea creatures; how did you go about selecting which ones to place in the Oracle? Were you tempted to have a larger deck to accommodate more of them?
When I first felt called to have the Secret Language of Animals Oracle based on endangered species, I started doing the research and was utterly overwhelmed to discover how many THOUSANDS of animals are endangered. Because of this, choosing which animals to include was one of the most difficult challenges of creating this Oracle. For every animal I chose, there were several other similar species that I could not speak for. I wish that I could have made an Oracle with 10,000 animals in it. In the end I went with the ones that came through strongest for me at the time, and I trust that these animals are there to open people’s awareness and to be ambassadors for all the others. Toni and I have talked about the possibilities of doing a larger format book to include many more, so we’ll see if this emerges on the path.
Thomas Freese: In what way do you think the folks who use the Oracle will better connect with the animals in body and/or spirit?
My deep intention is that people will experience the Secret Language of Animals Oracle as a doorway – not only to the sacred wisdom of the animals and elements, but to their own connection with the natural world and their own true and unique nature. Every single animal, element, insect and bird plays a vitally important and unique role in this great creation story, and the same is true for each of us. I would love for this Oracle to be a catalyst that draws people out into nature with new eyes and ears, open to seeing, hearing and experiencing the miraculous reflection and constant stream of communication which is there waiting for us when we take the time to tune ourselves into it, and which then reminds us who we really are. When we are aligned with this deep current of flow in nature and in life, our actions are informed and empowered in ways that we could never imagine.