Wild Elemental Oracle by Michelle Motuzas
Reviewed by Fran
Publisher: Red Feather/Schiffer Publishing RRP: £21.99 ISBN: 978-0-7643-5989-7
‘The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness’ – John Muir
With this quote New England artist Michelle Motuzas opens the guidebook to her latest deck, The Wild Elemental Oracle. It serves as a succinct statement of purpose. It is also a useful entry point into understanding Motuzas own spiritual path.
John Muir was a Scottish-American Naturalist who saw nature as a direct source of spiritual knowledge & was a strong advocate for preserving wilderness. With The Wild Elemental Oracle, Motuzas hopes to reclaim the lessons, wisdom & messages that come through nature.
In her deck introduction, Motuzas discusses how most of us have had our connection to the wild world & its animals severely impaired, if not severed by modern life. Thereby losing an understanding of the complex interdependence which we share with the natural world. Forgoing access to intimate contact with the spiritual energies & wisdom that reside within the earth.
In her artist’s statement on her website, Motuzas talks about how in her art & her shamanic path she seeks to find & distill the essential energy & nature of her subject or experience. Dropping all extraneous detail. The Wild Elemental Oracle brings this approach to 44 different animal & mythical archetypes, organised by their elemental associations.
The concentrated energy of this deck packs a strong punch. Readings using this oracle alongside tarot lead to very clear, direct & uncompromising messages. I worked with a tarot spread based on the Aries New Moon energies. Although a portion of the reading encouraged gentleness towards self & others, the greater part of the reading signposted the work. The tasks for the journey on a practical & spiritual level at this particular point. It was specific. This deck will give you a mandate for what needs to be done.
Keeping a daily draw of two oracle cards gave me an opportunity to notice & enjoy the elemental interplay between different pairings. For example, one day the jittery energy of my nerves was captured by an air card. Whilst the second card for the day applied some needed earthy, grounding energy.
Although animals are a popular deck theme, I found this deck quite different in feel to other animal oracles. For example, this deck is quite unlike the gently aspirational messages of ‘The Animal Spirit Oracle’ by Colette Baron Reid or the quietly pragmatic advice given by ‘Animal Kin Oracle Cards’ by Sarah Wilder. The artwork is congruent with Motuzas personal vision also, it reads as her voice.
Drawing in pastels onto a black ground, her use of rich colour is confident. Decorative pattern is celebrated & integrated beautifully, reminiscent of craft history & textile design. Her use of frames and detail is imaginative & playful. She zooms in on eyes or heads, sometimes almost to the point of abstraction. Whilst wings, tails, ears & tentacles all have a turn spilling out of the frame. Foliage, flowers, root systems & night skies are just a few of the chosen background motifs. This deck is teeming with life, just like all of creation.
The Wild Elemental Oracle is neatly packaged in a small but robust box, with a magnetic closure. There are some thoughtful touches to the overall packaging design. The ribbon pull that gives an ease of use, is matched by ribbon ties at each side upon opening out the front cover. A matte dark khaki cover design featuring a dragon’s eye, is overlaid with an old gold ink typeface, with the sides & back of the box given an embossed animal scale treatment. The cards themselves have a gloss finish with gold edging & a medicine wheel backing design. The card stock is standard Schiffer quality.
The full colour guidebook provides an introduction, several generic spreads plus a short discussion on animal allies or messengers. Each card is summarised by bullet point attributes, followed by a short guidance message. The guidebook only runs to 95 pages long & several of the pages towards the back were given over to space for notes or advertising. The discussion of the four elements was scant given that they form the structure for the deck. It feels like a lost opportunity for further discussion on Motusazs intentions in this area. Some original spreads would have also made for a richer resource & elevated the overall offering.
However, the deck itself is a delightfully fresh take on the theme of animals. It also possesses its own magic. On my first day with the deck, I saw a Deer sauntering down an ancient bridleway then drew the Stag card on arriving home. Several more days of animal signs in nature followed. The deck seemed to awaken & energise the connection. The Wild Elemental Oracle would be a good match for those already on an animist or earth based spiritual path but the universal & cross-cultural theme keeps it open to all. Anyone looking to a stronger relationship with animal allies or the natural world would find an excellent companion here.