At the beginning of the year a friend of mine invited me to join a private Facebook group for cartomancers. There was a lot of buzz on the site about a new book coming out, Siren Hand’s The Woven Wisdom: Bibliomancy and Card Guide (2020, Siren & Samsara Publishing) and, by extension, the Woven Wisdom Oracle deck developed by Hand and illustrator Steve Samsara. My friend was excited by the deck, which she owned, and had preordered the book. I read what I could about the deck and, based in large part on my friend’s recommendation, I ordered the deck and the book. They arrived in the middle of March, so I’m long past due in writing about them.*
The book and the deck arrived in separate packages, each carefully sealed in a cardboard mailer inside of their mailing envelopes. The deck came wrapped in cellophane along with a small, folded pamphlet. A black pouch accompanied the deck. The card backs have “Woven Wisdom” on them. On the face of the cards, along with the illustration, you will find the card title, the card number, and card themes and meditational phrases. For those of us with aging eyes, the card numbers, which appear in the lower right corner of the illustrations, are small and on some cards obscured by the illustration.
The deck consists of five suits of 10 cards: Pantheon (gods, goddesses, and “spiritual figureheads”), Forest (“Fantasy and natural elements”), Fables (fairy tale and fable themes), Autumn (“lessons from the Crones”), and Shadow (“deeper meanings and the habits to engage them”).(1) While there appears to be no practical reason for the division into five suits, Hand does say they will add nuance to readings. Some of Samsara’s illustrations remind me of Brian Froud’s faeries (Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book, The Faeries Oracle, and The Heart of Faerie Oracle). When I looked at Froud’s work online, I found some similarities, but not as many as I thought. Mainly, it has to do with the fact that neither illustrator portrays faeries/fairytale characters as cute, cheerful beings. There is a darkness here, but the deck isn’t a dark one. You can find touches of whimsey and humor throughout the deck (the skeletons!).
For reading the cards Hand recommends “Interpret[ing] your cards in their respective positions by ‘feeling’ their meanings… engag(ing] with both the wonderful art as well as the phrases and keywords on the card face.” (2) They provide seven spreads for reading with the deck, and they point out that you can find a variety of spreads online. One, the Outlook Spread, appears only in the pamphlet. Three, the Celtic Cross, the Three Card Spread (they include a handful of variations for this one), and the Confidence Spread appear only in the book. The Indecision Spread in the pamphlet is called the Decision Spread in the book.
Do you need the book to use the deck? No, but the expanded meanings and additional material make reading with the deck a much richer experience. The card guide section devotes two pages to each card, a full-page depiction of the card and a page with a description and meaning of the card. Also on the page you will find a “Could relate to” section, key questions, and whether the card indicates a Yes or No answer. Some of the yesses and noes have an expanded phrase. For example, the yes for Freya reads “YES, MAKE IT SO,” (3) and the no for The Observer says “NO, NOT YET—WATCH AND LEARN.” (4)
The book is also a wonderful resource that goes beyond the bibliomancy and card guide of the title. In addition to bibliomancy, Hand introduces the reader to numerology and pendulums. None of these practices is new for many of us, but folks newer to the practice of cartomancy may not be familiar with them. They include a short section on “Developing Personal Ritual” that should be required reading for anyone developing ritual or liturgy either for themselves or for groups. They also lay out a reading process that includes very practical aftercare advice for both the reader and the querent—eat and drink! I’ve always had either water or tea and some sort of snack with me when spending a day doing readings in the shop. However, I hadn’t thought to bring some for the occasional client that might need them, too.
I rarely us oracle decks when reading in the shop, but I’m slowly beginning to incorporate them. This is one deck that I think will resonate with many of my clients.
Woven Wisdom Oracle card images © 2020, Siren Hand and Steve Samsara
*A couple of other decks that I’ve received over the last few months also await review. I promise that those reviews will be coming soon.
- Siren Hand, The Woven Wisdom: Bibliomancy and Card Guide (Indianapolis, IN: Siren & Samsara Publishing, 2020), 35-6.
- Hand, 37.
- Hand, unnumbered page.
- Hand, unnumbered page