Now here’s a curio. Enough of Goddesses. Enough of Earth Goddesses, Guiding Goddesses, Pocket and Mystical Goddesses and any other kind of Goddesses. Here’s the deck which is intended to counterbalance the proliferation of all these Goddesses decks in the last few years. Because men read cards too, and this deck tells us that “The time has come to experience again what the real Masculine Divine is about!” This may indeed be the first of its kind and – for that reason – I just had to get myself a copy and see for myself. The blurb on the box tells us (in what feels like a Hollywood trailer voiceover) that “There was a time when Gods and Goddesses, the masculine and feminine Divine, co-existed equally and were honoured side by side…”
Then all these damn “Goddess-only” decks flooded the market and this deck now aims to “restore the balance”. Interestingly, nowhere does this book and deck set describe itself as an oracle. And it certainly isn’t tarot either, as it has 36 cards alongside a detailed companion book which tells you as much. I actually rather like that omission. What is it then exactly? A deck set for meditation purposes? Not entirely, as the book details quite a few spreads; a one card draw, a three card spread and a seven card spread. Also a spread called “The Pantheon”, which involves laying the cards out face up and choosing the one which most attracts our attention. There is also a short blessing ritual and invocations (I don’t do these things) so the intent is obviously mystical rather than a sequence of deity flash cards for learning purposes. There is even a list of “tools” for those wanting to experiment with spellwork. The fact is, you can do what you like with these cards; invoke the forces of Thor (if you want to get on at work), the communication skills of Hermes (if you have to do a presentation at work), the destructive skills of Shiva (also useful for work), any of the attributes of these 36 vividly coloured cards all depicting various male gods, demi-gods, mystical beings and warriors. A one card draw might tell you what you need to watch out for today, or what you need to stir up within yourself tomorrow. Either way, Stacey Demarco and Jimmy Manton’s set is strangely appealing.
Maybe it’s the swashbuckling atmosphere of Hollywood action films which the cards have. Or the HomoExotic butchness. There is – indeed – a fundamental campness about the whole concept. Does gently shuffling cards and laying them out on a favourite velvet reading cloth really help us connect with our inner brawny warrior in sandals? I don’t really care to be honest, but this deck set (not oracle) is full of action, fun and energy. The characters depicted are very diverse. There are – among others – Egyptian gods, Indian gods, Mayan gods, Pagan gods, Polynesian gods, a very wide variety to encompass various cultures and belief systems. The 125-page book explains a little about each one, enough to be able to read the qualities in the card. It tells the story or myth, then there is a paragraph on the “Shadow Side” (things to watch out for, a warning against certain excesses) and gives a list of symbols, which is wonderfully random sounding and poetic. For example, the listed symbols for Hypnos, god of sleep are “feathers on head and shoulders, opium poppy, inverted torch, branch dripping with water” (reads like an Imagist poem). Then there is a small invocation at the end of each card description. The beginning of the book lists some of the tools which might be needed while enacting the rituals (petals, a hammer…). Nothing elaborate, but with a short accompanying verse at the end of each card description which can be recited during the invocation.
The set prides itself on its fiercely masculine ethos, but keeps mentioning women so that the oracle buying female public doesn’t feel too alienated (as in the case with Dionysius, “The Liberator” because he lived at a time when women were restricted in society). Yet it is filled with imagery of the timelessly male universe; muscles, tattoes, anger, physical strength, and although there are some familiar mythical characters depicted, the take is so fresh that you really look anew at them. Ganesh, for instance, is here a frenzied rather than static elephant-headed Hindu god. Other favourites include Achilles who, while not strictly a god, is described as “both beautiful in form and highly masculine in nature” and the keyword of the card is “Confidence” because of his rages, call to arms for the death of all Trojans and his killing of Hector with a single stroke. I was also intrigued by Ah Puch, the Mayan God of Death. Unlike the usual figure of Death who blithely, serenely sweeps his scythe over all and sundry, this one came actively looking for you. He didn’t wait for you, he came to drag you out of wherever you were hiding, an image which struck terror into the hearts of the Mayan people.
This is an attractive set. The artwork has a comfortingly dated feel to it; rich in colouring but with something of vintage comic book style or old-fashioned history books. The cards are large, glossy and a little technicolor, luminously kitsch with minimal borders (no borders really, just a decorative flourish at the edge of the card). The backs of the cards, bearing the title of the deck, are a little bit of a disappointment as can be seen below.
However, I have to say, there is something curiously appealing about this set. I haven’t seen anything else like it on the market. It has a very unique energy, even though there is something a little pompous and over-the-top about it, which is actually part of the charm. A deck full of excesses for larger than life spreads, for those whose life feels like an ongoing mock-heroic drama. It is very much a deck which has filtered through the prism of cinema productions such as 300, Troy, Clash of the Titans, Thor, with all the macho hollering, special effects, crash of metal on metal, strappy leather sandals and tunics, pecs and testosterone. In short, really rather likeable.
Gods & Titans by Stacey Demarco & Jimmy Manton, published by Blue Angel, 2011