Detail from Gaia's Vision Oracle CardsGaia's Vision Oracle Cards, by Susan StarrGaia’s Vision Oracle Cards, by Susan Starr, photography by Doris Diamond
Schiffer Publishing, 9780764350092, 40 cards, 24 pp. booklet, 2016

If retreating into nature is one of your preferred ways to connect with your self or your spirituality, Gaia’s Vision Oracle Cards is deck is likely to resonate.

Each of the 40 cards in this colourful deck portrays a different scene in nature (trees, rocks, water scenes, birds in flight) in vivid, layered imagery, with enough nuance that it could easily stir up remembrances of noteworthy experiences or realizations brought about in nature. If you perform rituals outdoors or incorporate natural elements into ritual, your breadth of experience will certainly add to your readings with Gaia’s Vision.

Doris Diamond’s stylized photography captures a feeling, rather than just portrays a flat image, and lends itself to a meaningful, personal oracle reading experience. The booklet explains, “Gaia’s Vision uses the deeper, profound wisdom of Mother Earth as the source from which you can draw. By looking deeply into the multiple layers of nature imagery in each card, you can call up that wisdom and discern and answer or outcome that harmonizes with your soul.”

Written by Susan Starr, the accompanying book recommends users look at the cards intuitively, rather than over-intellectually, and the dream-like images and open-to-interpretation titles on each card support them in doing so. Specifically, the reader is encouraged “think of how you dream. There are no instructions; you enter and leave at random points. Don’t be deterred by the position of the title.” For users who are new to oracle cards this booklet will provide helpful guidance.

Each card has a one- or two-word title to accompany each image, but readers who are curious for more information can refer to the booklet which has an additional message for each card. The blurbs provide direction but still leave much to the imagination – it’s clear that all the words included here are well-meditated on:

Susan Starr writes, “after Doris created each card, we called our community together for two gatherings, where the vision cards were given out and guests were asked to describe words and feelings that came to mind. We used their feedback as a starting point to name each card. As I kept the guests words and feelings in my heart, I looked deeply into the layers of the vision card to find the messages most evocative of the image.”

The messages show great care in writing and resonate for me. Starr’s writing is poetic and flowing so as not to prescribe a meaning but rather stir a reader’s intuition. A card depicting a majestic purple and green forest is titled “walking the path,” a starry sky behind bare tree trunks is “ancient light,” and a firecracker of a red shrub is “sparkleburst.” The latter card’s message is “Awaken! Your awareness opens to an alternate universe… your fire bursts forth… layers of the ordinary burn away. You are the jewel at the head of a magic wand, spreading light wherever you go.” Inspiring, empowering, and certainly evocative, as Starr says, which I appreciate in an oracle deck.

As a former tree planter, forest ranger, and current resident of downtown Toronto who still loves nature, I find it a little saddening that opportunities to connect with it are few and far between. I make a point stay in touch even if it simply means noticing the plant life around me on my walk to work, for example, or taking my journal to a park. This oracle deck offers an accessible way to incorporate more of it into my life on a regular basis and keep my memories alive for now.

There are instructions for nine different spreads in the booklet (most using three cards, some up to six cards), each for a specific purpose. Though, I find that the cards and messages are rich enough that a one-card daily draw gives a lot to think about. But I was curious to try this oracle deck as a supplement to a reading with my Herbal Tarot Deck, which shows a specific healing herb alongside Rider-Waite-Smith iconography. I found it made for a very holistic reading — anyone interested in herbal healing would find this an interesting exercise. To add an idea of a connection to, or experience in nature to the herb recommendations in the tarot cards could be a real mind, body, and soul healing tool of a reading.

It’s clear that a lot of care went into the crafting of Gaia’s Vision oracle deck, and the attention to detail makes it easy to use the same care in a reading. Overall, it’s a stunning deck and useful little piece of art. If I have any qualms at all, I’d have to say that the layered imagery in some instances makes it difficult to see which flowers or plants are actually depicted, and so those who have personal connections with specific plants might prefer to see the photograph more clearly. Though, this would be at the expense of prompting the user to look deeper into the card and also deeper within themselves, which is ultimately the purpose and gift of an oracle deck.

As an alternative to oracle cards that feature personified figures or animals, Gaia’s Vision Oracle Cards are a delight to use for readings and simply to peruse.