On first glance, The Transparent Oracle is lovely! The box is a vast improvement over that of the Transparent Tarot. The Oracle's box is a narrow box with magnetic closure & a ribbon loop to pull it open. It has ribbon hinges on the inside. The box is 11.75 x 6 x 1.5 inches. The cards sit in a well on the right side of the box; on the left is the book with the white spread cloth packed underneath.
The cards have a plastic band holding them together, and they fit very well in the box, with no slipping or sliding. I was fortunate enough to see a prototype of the deck at last year's Readers Studio, and now to have the completed deck is a joy! The cards are large, 5 inches in diameter, and there are 70 of them, so it's quite a handful. My cards did not stick together at all as I quickly counted them to make sure none were missing (they're all there and accounted for!). There was also none of the filmy residue on them like the TT had last year (although the companion book mentions there might be some).
Emily has grouped the cards around the seven directions: East, South, West, North, Above, Below, and Within (10 cards for each direction). Each group of the N, S, E & W cards includes a card representing a gateway, weather, element, time of day, landscape, 4 animal guides, and an elemental. The group representing Above includes a gateway, guide, a card for each of the 7 classical planets, and a polarity. Below includes a gateway, 4 guide cards, the Grail hallows and a polarity card. (The polarity cards are different colored dragons). The Within cards include a gateway, dream, touch/taste, hearing, voice, telepathy, empathy, vision, DNA/labyrinth and the web.
The book (nearly 5.75 inches square) is 128 pages in length. There are four chapters: What is the Transparent Oracle?, Card Meanings, Using the Cards, and Spreads (authored by David Rankine). It is illustrated with b&w images of all the cards, and each card has some keywords and a full page description of the card's meaning, as well as some card combinations. The spreads are Here and Now, Axis Mundi, and a Chakras spread.
Schiffer has done an outstanding job with the production of this set. The quality is excellent, and they are to be congratulated. They have represented Emily's hard work and vision beautifully. I love it and I can't decide what to do first: read the book or shuffle the cards and start to play!
Every now and then a revolutionary oracle or tarot deck comes along and the Transparent Oracle is one of them. This is a deck of 70 transparent plastic discs printed with images and symbols. There are no Arcana, no traditional suits, instead the cards are divided into 7 Directions – North, South, East, West, Above, Below, Within. Each of these ‘Directions’ has 10 cards. The 4 primary Directions (North, South, East, West) have the following card categories; Gateway, Weather, Element, Time of Day, Landscape, 4 Guide cards, and an Elemental Sylph. ’Above’ has a Gateway, Guide, Polarity, and 7 Celestial Bodies cards. ‘Below’ has a Gateway, 4 Guide cards, 4 Grail Hollows cards, and a Polarity card. ‘Within’ has; Gateway, Dream, Touch, Hearing, Voice, Telepathy, Empathy, Vision, DNA/Labyrinth, and The Web.
The Primary Directions follow traditional northern hemisphere alignments where North = Earth, East=Air, South=Fire, and West=Water. Readers in the southern hemisphere can reverse the north and south elements without any issues.
The card layouts involve layering the cards at least three deep on top of each other, so that a unique mandala is created for each divinatory position in a layout. Additionally the cards can be rotated to alter the images and stimulate psychic/creative senses. One could also use methods that apply to round tarot decks, such as reading tilted cards as having significant meanings. The card at the bottom of the pile represents the past of any given divinatory position, the middle card represents the present, and the top card – the future.
The discs/cards measure 140 mm across which makes them quite sizeable, and may present difficulties when shuffling for some users. They can always be stirred in a circle on a cloth, and many users of round tarots prefer this method. The cards are made of clear flexible plastic, which is quite sturdy. However this sort of plastic is prone to scratching so these cards really need to be used on a cloth. The plastic is durable in other ways though – they are waterproof, so gentle polishing with a wet cloth will remove any marks; and you can use them in the bath should the spirit move you.
It is recommended that you give these cards a wipe over with a clean cloth when you get them, because many of them have a slightly tacky film on them due to the manufacturing process, which will hinder any initial attempts to shuffle this deck.
The print quality is clean and delicate with fresh, bright colours. The artwork is done in a pointillist style, which gives the images an ethereal and misty quality. However the images are not obscure and hard to discern – they are quite clear, sophisticated, elegant, and somewhat tribal at times.
All the cards have a thin black line at the outside of the image that denotes the border, and the number of each card from 1-70 is situated at the bottom. Due to the complete transparency of the cards there is no design on the back. The Transparent Oracle comes in a lovely box-set, which is quite typical of Schiffer Publishing. The box is solid cardboard with a glossy finish, printed with details of the deck and accompanying images on all sides. It has a magnetic closure, a ribbon loop to pull the box open, and ribbon hinges which holds the lid in place. The cards are situated in a well, with the guidebook beside it. Beneath the guidebook is a white cotton ‘reading cloth’, which is hemmed and measures 46 x 46 cm. The cloth is really essential because it shows the illustrations on the cards at their best; the delicate nature of the artwork will be lost or severely diminished on any other surface.
The 124 page guidebook is thorough. There is a ‘Foreword’ which is a reasonable overview of the development of tarot and oracle decks. The 'Introduction’ is extremely brief and really just puts forth the possibilities for the use of the Oracle.
'What Is The Transparent Oracle?’leads the reader through the concept of ‘The 7 Directions’; there is information on how the cards function, as well as how to care for them.
Each ‘Direction’ has its own chapter, which in turn covers in-depth information on each of the 10 cards. Each card is given a title, and a series of keywords which summarise the essence of its meaning. There is an explanation of the concept which the card embodies, with mythical and contemporary references. There are also divinatory meanings for combinations of cards – some cards have enhanced attributes when they are layered with cards from the same or different Directions.
Finally there is a chapter on 'Using the Cards’ which includes instructions for how to shuffle, ask questions, create combinations, divination, brainstorming and creative visualisation, and how to use this Oracle in concord with The Transparent Tarot.
This is an amazing Oracle – well conceived and beautifully executed. Due to the individualistic nature of oracle decks, one need not be an experienced reader in order to use The Transparent Oracle. An absolute beginner can pick up this deck and benefit from its use. If you are looking up for Oracle cards that are flexible in their possibilities, offer opportunities for creative, in-depth readings then this is the deck for you. If you are looking for a deck that embraces new technologies with roots in traditional divinatory methods then look no further than The Transparent Oracle. If you are an experienced user of oracle decks then I urge you to give this one a try, this really is something special.