The Barbieri Zodiac Oracle is first and foremost a stunning treat for the eyes. Paolo Barbieri, one of Italy’s most famous artists, has illustrated the covers of works by Ursula K. le Guin, George R.R. Martin, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Michael Crichton, among others. Here, he has imagined the human forms of the 12 zodiac signs, the ten astrological planets, and the four elements – all of the latter being represented as female. These glossy cards on heavy stock have a grand, ethereal quality about them; it’s easy to feel the iciness of Pluto, the fieriness of Aries, or the coolness of Water.
Along with the 26 cards, the kit comes with a booklet written by Barbara Moore. There’s a very brief introduction to the basics of astrology — signs and their divisions into elements and qualities, and planets and their characteristics. This is a versatile deck, suitable for both a beginner and a more advanced student of astrology. Moore writes: “This oracle uses the wisdom of astrology along with the element of synchronicity to help you divine your own guidance quickly and easily. Just like tarot cards, astrological components have many levels of meaning. The more you study, the more is revealed to you.”1 The deck is average size (easy for smallish hands like mine to shuffle) and comes in a sturdy box.
Moore provides five spreads, called techniques, for reading the cards. Technique 1 describes drawing one card to answer a question, while Technique 2 uses three cards to examine a situation in terms of one’s motivation, expression, and energy needed to balance or heal that situation. Technique 3 adds another person’s motivation into the equation, and Technique 4 explains how to divine the most auspicious time to do something. Technique 5 is a more ambitious 12-card spread using the concept of astrological houses, each of which governs an area of a person’s life, such as relationships, family, or career. A four-card variation on this spread that works with only houses of particular interest is supplied as well.
I tried out Technique 3, but due to an error in clearly numbering the cards in the diagram, I had trouble figuring out which card went with which position in the spread, and had to deviate from the instructions and use my own assignment. This confusion, I believe, is due to the poor copy editing that was evident throughout the English portion of the guidebook. Aside from that, this spread worked well for the two questions I posed. It was the same question involving myself and two different people, and in both cases gave me information I could use for each situation. I referred to the explanations of the cards given in the guidebook, which are a tiny subset of their astrological possibilities, yet I was able to piece together a helpful divinatory meaning for each spread.
The Barbieri Zodiac Oracle would also function well as a second deck in a tarot reading to get additional information, since tarot cards themselves have astrological correspondences. I could envision using these cards to support or contradict a tarot card’s astrological interpretation, or using the sign cards alone to pin down specific timing of events (since each sign corresponds to a month), which is sometimes difficult to do with tarot cards. A little imagination, and the oracle cards could go far in providing a fuller reading.
Overall, I was pleased with this deck. The artwork is outstanding and stimulating to look at, while providing a means of furthering your astrological studies, augmenting a tarot reading, or maybe just drawing a single card as your own daily horoscope. The Barbieri Zodiac Oracle comes with lots of options, and like astrology itself, the possibilities for creativity are endless.
Related: The Barbieri Tarot, by Barbara Moore and Paolo Barbieri, reviewed by Corinna Underwood
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