I’ve been pondering the subject of oracle decks produced by Doreen Virtue for some time now, but haven’t felt motivated to write what amounts to a defense for their existence and usage. Among the self-proclaimed tarot cognoscenti, Doreen’s decks are anathema to their hard-won, occult (meaning hidden) knowledge. My opinion is that those endless criticisms of her work tend to be less from firsthand experience, and more from the group-think that pervades the online tarot community.

Image by Steve A. Roberts that became Empress; click to visit artist's gallery page

Priestess of the Woods, used as The Empress. (c) Steve A. Roberts. Click image for artist’s gallery store page.

Having been a tarot snob myself in the past, I know exactly where most of those criticisms are coming from. I also think most of them are from people who haven’t touched a Virtue oracle deck, let alone given one a chance. I would like to share some opinions on working with a couple of these decks. Can they be hard-hitting, or are they the fluffy marshmallows that the tarot community claims?

While I have a solid background in tarot, and generally enjoy occult themed tarot decks (Waite-Smith, Thoth, Servants of the Light, Golden Dawn, etc.), I branched out to explore playing cards and the Lenormand back in 2008. The fruits of that effort are on this blog. Later on, although my passion for tarot never died, I naturally segued into playing with oracle decks that I wouldn’t have given a second glance previously, since I was so tarot-centric. In the last few months I started working with two Virtue decks: Angel Tarot Cards, and the Archangel Oracle.

Angel Tarot Cards

The Angel Tarot Cards were well-reviewed by a couple of bloggers whose opinions I respect and trust — Kate and Steven — which helped me take the plunge. The deck isn’t perfect, any more than any other tarot or oracle deck is perfect. It has some repetitive art elements, and in my experience has poor production quality. Despite this, I don’t think it’s as awful as many tarot purists claim. “But it doesn’t have a Devil! Or Tower! What good is a tarot that has only positive messages?” So goes the litany.

Angel_15_Devil

Angel Tarot Cards, Ego (The Devil)

Right away, I assume anyone saying that hasn’t actually used this deck. The Devil is renamed Ego. Well, so what? My Merlin Tarot and Wildwood Tarot are two decks that also ditch The Devil (both replace it with The Guardian). The popular Druidcraft Tarot replaced the devil with Cernunnos, and the equally-popular Robin Wood kept the Devil card, but there is no devil depicted; rather it shows two people chained to a treasure chest. I don’t generally hear anyone bitching about these changes, but somehow having “Ego” is a horrible affront.

RobinWood_DevilRobin Wood Tarot, The Devil

And if one reads the Angel Tarot Ego card’s meanings: “A false sense of entrapment.” Hmm, I believe that’s a very common meaning used with the Waite-Smith, whose human figures are said to be able to easily slip off their collars if they wish! “Being overly focused on material things.” That sounds like a commonly used meaning for the Waite-Smith as well; and it ties nicely to the Robin Wood image. Pun intended.

I’ve not going to break down all of the “negative” cards in the Angel Tarot Cards to compare the artistic differences chosen for the Angel Tarot versus a Waite-Smith deck; but I certainly encourage you to do that for yourself. I just wanted to show an example of how traditional meanings are there, and usable if you wish. One card that may be a harder stretch is the 10 of Air (Swords), which focuses on breaking out of a cycle and the relief that ensues, even if it’s hard.

Angel_10ofAir

If you like to predict doom and gloom with the Waite-Smith 10 of Swords, you won’t have the visual backing on the Angel Tarot’s version of this card, but really that shouldn’t stop you. After all, it’s the reader who decides what any card means in a reading!

It’s also interesting that the Virtue tarot deck is sometimes called out as too light; yet dark decks are perennially popular in the community, and are considered balanced. Necronomicon Tarot, Archeon Tarot and Deviant Moon (which I find especially creepy) are the first three that come to mind. Then there are the Bohemian Gothic, the Vargo gothic deck, Robert Place’s Vampire Tarot and the Tarot of the Vampyres. I’ve never seen anyone say these are too dark, or too bloody, or that the art doesn’t match the intent of the original tarot archetypes as the striving of the human soul in a way that is more spiritually “pure” than these dark decks would indicate. Just goes to show: to each his (or her) own!

Archangel Oracle Cards

Remember

I’ve been enjoying the Archangel Oracle cards a lot. These are 45 cards based on 15 archangels, which can be treated as an archetype plus the meaning or illustration of each card. I took these to a recent winery outing, because I didn’t want to end up with a repeat of my last winery group readings: trying to put a positive spin on a 5 of Cups for what turned out to be a tough issue, at an environment that wasn’t suited for it. These cards and my readings were very well received. This deck, and my use of it, were versatile enough to cover a reading about relationship patterns; provide some options for what to focus on next in a mid-life phase; and confirm a possible career path for an open-minded skeptic. If you ask me, that’s a respectable showing for any reading for clients.

Passion

Like other Virtue decks, these cards feature a central picture, a title, and a message. I find these cards to be enough of a springboard that I can generalize them; they are “stretchy” in my hands. Not unlike the Lenormand, whose symbols can lend themselves to a wide variety of meanings in context. I feel any competent card reader who is drawn to this deck’s artwork could make it work for a wide variety of readings.

Closing

Now, that’s just two decks from the Doreen Virtue portfolio. I am aware that she has a lot, and I wouldn’t find all of them suitable or appealing for my reading style. Benebell Wen recently wrote a nice review of the Daily Guidance from Your Angels deck, which looks like I might be able to work with it for more general readings, although I think it’s at the limit of what I consider workable for myself. In contrast, I’ve seen the Ascended Masters deck and it seemed too affirmative in nature for me to readily adapt. (Pity, I love its Egyptian-themed cards, especially Horus!) Healing With the Angels has images with simple keywords, and I think it would be a good general and adaptable deck, particularly if I used reversals with it.

I hope that if you’ve never tried to read with a Doreen Virtue oracle deck, this post will give you a new perspective on how some of her decks are quite readable, and can serve a place for anyone who reads for clients. It’s always good to be open-minded. And if these aren’t your cup of tea, well, no worries. Big-eyed Lolita decks (a la Ceccoli) are quite popular lately, but you won’t catch them on my reading table anytime soon. Or maybe I’d better say: never say never…

What do you think about Virtue oracle decks? Do you already use them? Feel more open-minded about them after reading this? Tried some but they just aren’t for you or your clients? Hit me up in the comments.

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