A little while ago a wonderful witch friend gifted me an Oracle deck she wrote and made the art for. It's a first run of a locally made deck, with the added bonus of Leora gifting it to me out of love, and so I was inclined to like it anyway--but as soon as the deck hit my hand I was surprised by how right it felt that I owned this deck. I rarely connect with oracle decks that aren't slightly creepy or fairy-laden (and even those I'm picky about), so I was really excited to see what transpired as I went through it.
This gift, the Tangled Roots Oracle, was created by local artist Leora Effinger-Weintraub, and her website as well as more about the deck is here. I wasn't officially asked to do a review, which makes me feel even warmer and fuzzier about the gift, but decided to do one anyone because I truly love this deck.
Overall inspiration and connection I've already touched on this quite a bit. Originally I sat down with Leora and asked a million questions about the how and why of the deck, and it originally started as just a way for her to have a deck she truly connected to. Her spirituality comes from a certain line, and she's a woman who's soul runs very deep, and so it was hard for her to find THE one. I think it's fascinating, and confirms the adage I hear about art and story-telling, that the more personal something is, the more universal it is. Leora may have created this for herself and those like her, but something about this deck runs really deep and digs right into your own soul.
The Artwork on the Tangled Roots Oracle is so simple and beautiful. That's very true to the artist's style--she does a lot of work with lettering and simple things that make a big statement. I'd seen some of the early illustrations and knew they gave a lot of ideas in a very concise manner, with the reader's knowledge and ability to suss out symbols being pretty key. The finals in the deck added a lot of color for what seems like interest but is incredibly mood-focused. Her use of symbols is great, and since this is a deck meant to be incredibly personal, I love that the picture is of just, say, a raccoon, for example. If a raccoon means something drastically different to you than it does to Leora, it doesn't matter--there's not anything to contrast your vision on the card, so it gets to speak to you as it needs to without being confused. Simple decks are one of my greatest joys in life, don't let my Prisma Visions and Tarot of the Silicon Dawn addictions confuse you, and this is one of the best I've seen in this vein.
Card Quality: If you've been keeping up with my blog or even just hear me talk about tarot a lot, you know this can be a touchy subject for me. I don't let poor card quality ruin a deck for me, but I do find it incredibly disappointing on otherwise flawless decks. So I am very happy to report that these simple but powerful images are seated comfortably on durable but flexible cards. One of the first things I said out loud about the deck was "Oooh, good cards!" by which I meant the quality.
Overall Inclusivity is a non-issue with this deck. Leora designed this with herself and immediate inner circle in mind, but she is a proud social justice warrior like myself (I know that term is supposed to be derogatory. I just don't find it to be.) This deck relies so heavily on suggestion, symbols, and shrouded figures that I don't think anyone would feel left out by this deck, and if anything, I think the way she uses her artwork does include and pull pretty much everyone into the fold.
The Queerness Quotient then is also stellar. Leora is a queer woman, so much like the Fountain Tarot, while not an explicitly queer deck, that piece of her identity runs through it in a way that those of us looking for a deck with queerness will be satisfied. That being said, the ambiguity of this deck makes it even more welcoming of those marginalized even within our community. While the deck was designed through a certain lens, she does a really lovely job of making sure that's not the only lens it can be seen through.
Guide Book and Ease of Learning also hit a home run in this case. Because this is a low cost self-published deck (a rare thing in and of itself), the guide book is a simple folded pamphlet with brief interpretations of the cards. It's very straightforward, and makes it doubly clear that this deck is very Pagan and very personal. The book offers very short interpretations which further allows for the reader to build from the building block she's laid out for us. My one sort of complaint or criticism is actually that I wanted more of Leora's voice in the book. Not necessarily in the interpretations of the cards, but she had such beautiful things to say about the deck's conception and creation that I thought a thicker pamphlet with more info about the deck would've been so valuable, esp to those who might just pick it up at an event or online. This Oracle deck is very easy to learn in comparison with others. I know tarot so well that I sometimes struggle with oracle decks, but the Tangled Roots Oracle goes in a logical order, and allows for free-thinking in a way that makes it easy for anyone to at least read for themselves with.
Leora Effinger-Weintraub's Tangled Roots Oracle sounds like a vague concept, but the information if gives can be as ethereal or concise if you need it to be. I've used it for everything from a "Mind, body, spirit" check-in to a question about a practical business issue I was facing and it gave me the information I needed in all cases. There's one or two cards that did take me aback--I expressed my concern about the deck's use of wedding bands to stand-in for commitment in a day and age where that particular symbol is often still seen as one of super traditional nuclear family lifestyles as opposed to how I, and many, queer people feel about romantic and other commitment. I have the deck's first run, and the artist is taking my feedback as well as that of a few other people into account. Ultimately though, even if nothing changes on the second run, Leora has created a really sweet, beautiful deck that is deeply rooted in Pagan beliefs but still offers incredibly valuable insight regardless of your identity and faith. I can't wait to get fully "off book," and this may be one of the first oracle decks I ever use for clients. It's that good.
Again, the website is here, and I am sure those that follow it will be among the first to know when sales go live again.
Blessed be, and thank you so much to Leora, her wife Eli, and all of the amazing queer Pagans doing amazing things in their communities.