Earlier this week, I made my regular pilgrimage to the used bookstore, where I always hope to find some new and perhaps obscure deck of cards. Yeah, I can’t help it, I’m wired that way. I found a new deck; not necessarily obscure, but certainly outside of my “zone:” The Lakota Sweat Lodge Cards: Spiritual Teachings of the Sioux, by Chief Archie Fire Lame Deer with artist Helene Sarkis.


I’m not normally drawn to Native American themed decks or spiritual trappings. Aside from the every-present risk of made-up New Age teachings and an awareness of inappropriate cultural appropriation, that is just not something that’s ever called to me. However, when I saw this box on the shelf, the cover caught me and after looking through the cards in the store, I found them appealing enough to purchase. I liked the bold art style, the predominance of earthy tones, and that the deck depicted a lot of animals and nature without relying on people.

I have no idea if the source of these cards is legit, in terms of presenting authentic teachings. They seem earnest and respectful; and I haven’t seen anything negative online yet. Only one review at amazon.com was negative, seemingly on general principle, which was encouraging. In any case, my interest was the possibility of reading these as an oracle deck on my own terms, with any education they may provide as a bonus.

I tried my first reading with these cards today, using an elemental circle spread and asking: “How will this deck speak to me?” The idea is that a card will depict what kind of aspect will come through each of the four elements (air, fire, water, earth) according to their traits. The center card sums the deck’s style or vibes; and the crossing card is the challenge to watch out for. I read these cards based on what I think each one means, rather than looking them up in the book. The outcome was intriguing.

Lakota_first_readingFour elements reading; clockwise from east (air, fire, water, earth)
Click for larger image

East – Air Position

In the east are the Sacred Herbs. The east is the aspect of air, which is communication and words. I interpreted this as the messages of these cards will be pure and rooted in nature. (A touch of irreverence from these cards?) They will evolve with time, and the the cards will inspire thoughts or words that lead to cleansing, purity and protection. This is something I could ponder more, especially to put into more articulate words here and now (ironically). But I feel this is very to-the-point.

South – Fire Position

In the south is Water — an intriguing card, because south is the home of the fire element! And fire and water are opposites. However, I’m not trying to reading elemental dignities here, so I instead consider the aspects of fire: strength, passion, burning, conquering. How might they express in a watery way? The fact that water is gentle, yet can carve even rock over time, is what comes to mind. So I believe this deck will convey its messages calmly and perhaps gently, at least on the surface. However, there will be depths there, and raindrops can turn to a flood; or small messages can lead to big changes.

West – Water Position

In the west, home of elemental water, is the Moontime card. The moon is associated with cycles, and reflection; the tarot’s unseen nighttime with deceptions, or the Lenormand’s romance and fame. This is a serene image and reminds me most of meditation. I believe that this deck would speak well to emotional topics, by promoting a calm approach to the subject that benefits from consideration during a reading. I think it also hits at being able to dive deep into topics, and explore them fully, looking at the cycles and progress of subjects of readings.

North – Earth Position

The north is the position of earth, and I was almost amused to see such a strong earth representation there, with the Stone. This deck has strong roots! It will be a stable force, able to dig into the past and root around. (Sorry to use “root” twice, but sometimes I calls ’em as I sees hears ’em.) My immediate impression was of stability, and I didn’t feel like anymore was needed. As I type this, though, I start to wonder if this deck is strong when speaking of earthy — that is, material and physical — matters; or if it’s so heavy it won’t deal well with them? I’d lean towards saying it’s capable, because that’s my initial reaction at this earth pairing. I think the deck was intended as an oracle for some degree of self-healing, too, and even though that’s often the mind and emotions, the body has to be in that picture too. Time will tell, I suppose.

Center – Overall and Crossing

The center cards is The South, and depicts an owl. I suppose the Lakota cosmology for the southern direction is different than my traditional Western associations, but I focused on the owl when I did this reading. The owl is a creature long associated with wisdom; and is a hunter who can easily navigate the nighttime to find tiny creatures like mice. Overall, I feel this deck can provide a voice of wisdom, and may hear or see things otherwise overlooked.

The crossing card is Bear, who seems to be looking back at the owl; perhaps Bear notes that the owl isn’t looking where he’s going, and may run into the bear! I read this card as a caution that the deck may sometimes come across as too strong, or perhaps cause overconfidence on my part. So when using the deck, I’d better keep my focus and watch where I’m going.

And that, as they say, is that. Does anything stand out to you when looking at this reading? Have any of you used this deck? Hit me up in the comments!