Passing the time over the fall break with my family in a cabin in the Swedish woods, I had the idea to create an oracle deck of cards, based on several timeless sources of wisdom – one being, of course, the Major Arcana of the Tarot. After casting about for suitably oracular material among the available ancient grimoires and spell books to create a dialogue with the Tarot, I settled on a proven text that always delivers a powerful punch-line, at least when looking at the moral of the tale: Aesop’s Fables!
Here is what I then made the family circus do: We divided the 22 major arcana cards between us, and for each card we found a corresponding page in the book of Fables. We then rolled some dice to determine what specific line we would read in conjunction with the card.
An example: In the first round I pulled the card of the High Priestess, which of course has the value of 2. I then went to page two in the book of fables, finding “The Cock and the Pearl”, rolled the dice to determine the line number, got 7, and came away with the sentence: “I would rather have a single barleycorn than a peck of pearls.” We repeated this procedure with all cards, moving progressively through the page numbers in blocks of 22 pages, so that when my turn came to do the Fool, I added his value of 22 to the page number in the fables book, coming up with 45, from which I distilled the sentence, “The idol broke in two.” In the end we had the following 22 oracular statements emerging from the mouths of the Major Arcana figures:
- 0/22. “The Idol broke in two.” – The Fool
- 1. “Raise the pole” – The Magician
- 2. “I would rather have a single barleycorn than a peck of pearls.” – The High Priestess
- 3. “Undisturbed by its tail.” – The Empress
- 4. “The Lion took Androcles to his cave.” – The Emperor
- 5. “You will dare!” – The Hierophant
- 6. “I am a bird.” – The Lovers
- 7. “You can never forget the death of your son.” – The Chariot
- 8. “I shall suffer for it.” – Strength
- 9. “The trees were good-natured.” – The Hermit
- 10. “Come with me to my master!” – The Wheel of Fortune
- 11. “You will want some refreshments” – Justice
- 12. “The lion attacked them one by one.” – The Hanged Man
- 13. “The lion was so tickled at the idea of the mouse.” – Death
- 14. “Brains, your Majesty!” – Temperance
- 15. “Be content with your lot.” – The Devil
- 16. “We want a real King.” – The Tower
- 17. “Much outcry, little outcome.” – The Star
- 18. “That fine harness upon you.” – The Moon
- 19. “All shall dwell together.” – The Sun
- 20. “Put the Serpent down on the hearth.” – Judgement
- 21. “Don’t sprawl here!” – The World
The fact that I can’t draw has never stopped me from drawing. So I proceeded to imitate the drawings in the Marseille Tarot. I started last night, and finished the whole thing this morning. The way I draw is always by way of putting pen to paper directly. No pencil and no drafts. I’m not a patient person when it comes to these things, and I don’t believe in revising a drawing. I think I finished the deck in about 4 hours, between a meal, a walk in the woods, watching Forest Gump on TV, and a sun salutation on the porch after a good night’s sleep.
Creating oracles and making cards is an activity that I recommend warmly. If nothing else, then simply because you get to laugh your wits out, every time you take your own deck and look at what it says, both visually and literally. And mind you, you can also get wiser.
After I finished, and keeping with my ritual with every new deck I ever get, I asked my Oracles of the Fables to show me its mojo.
I got the Sun, the Moon and the Fool. Right. Visually the oracle tells me this: who needs words to communicate with? Howling at the moon can also do it. And if it doesn’t, who needs others to miscommunicate with? Take a walk and be free.
Verbally, the cards say the following:
“All shall dwell together. That fine harness upon you. The idol broke in two.”
And the reaction to this can only be one: ‘Oh, wow!’
The nice thing about oracles is that they need no interpretation. You go with what you hear. Some would say, you go with your intuitive response. But I don’t like that. I like to say that as with any oracle, you go with what you hear. Period. The oracle lore going back thousands of years prove exactly that. The Greeks were not into ‘intuition’. They were into action. In fact, I would argue that the only reason why we bother to read any cards, divine, or look at the stars, is because we want cues for action, not for how we can end up praising ourselves for our intuitive faculties. Every time I come upon eulogies and odes to intuition I can see that the ones singing, sing a song to their own cognitive egos. I don’t find that very interesting.
So, the Oracle of the Fables speaks its truth. And I like what I’m hearing. This oracle walks its talk.
Here are some more images in juxtaposition. Enjoy!
Note on the deck:
The Oracle of the Fables, Camelia Elias, Knäred, 2013.
Now available at the Taroflexions Shop (cards printed on the fine Canson Montval 300g paper).
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