Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Deck Review: The Living Altar

The Living Altar, an oracle and spell deck for the radical witch by Kiki Robinson & Ylvadroma Marzanna Radziszewski, centers everything the entire world should be focusing on in this time and place, using the language necessary to accomplish transformation.  from the first "disrupt the status quo", to the last "ours is a zeitgeist of renaissance & reinvention", this deck is a learning experience for me that came through a moment of connection between myself, my heritage, and a tarot-fluent acquaintance.  for most of my almost 40 years of reading tarot I've used the same deck - the first one I got at the beginning of my journey - and recently, after being gifted several new-to-me decks, it only took a minute to notice how cis/heteronormative/eurocentric most decks are, and as those are ideas and a kind of ideal I'm doing my best to move away from in as many ways as possible, I decided I needed a different kind of 'new'.  so I went looking for decks that connect me to my traditional cultural heritage (which is rife with issues) and ended up being gifted The Living Altar deck by someone who thought it belonged more to me than to them.  I really appreciate the opportunity to work with Romani artists, businesses, and witches, and this deck is a true call to action. 


it's frankly a bit shocking how many decks and readers are out there, now...the whole discipline feels a bit saturated, but I must be getting old, because I find myself saying that about lots of things I used to be only one of a few people doing that's become more acceptably 'mainstream'!  it's good, though - we need it.  we need SO many more people to get in better tune with their cultural dynamic, and bring their magic into alignment with their own everyday rituals.  this deck, with its 52 oracle cards, 14 ritual activation cards, comprehensive guidebook, and an endless variety of entry points with which to approach the work, I honestly felt a bit out of my depth at first sight.  the nuances reminded me of the Enochian system, which I haven't worked with in a long time, and it definitely felt like approaching an intricate new tool as a beginner.  laying the cards out in the wheel pattern helped to see the deck as a whole, and to connect with it in full bloom, as it were - so pretty!



the cards are big, heavy, and there's so much going on with them visually.  I like how they feel, though my hands are small, so it's hard to hold the whole deck at once.  to begin, I did the Living Altar spread because it used the least amount of cards, is about struggle and the need for support, and was suggested as a ritual of self-devotion with which to draw courage and get hyped.  the cards I drew were all from the 3rd narrative arc, those spells having to do with elemental everyday practical magic moments on the cusp between the death/rebirth cycle.  here's a stripped-down version of my result ~ 

top card - creativity, card 2 - inspiration, card 3 - resource, card 4 - relationship


the top card - card 1 - is The Altar, a goal/skill/spell to nourish/honor/tend to/celebrate.  honoring inspiration by putting it into action.  creativity means transforming, trusting, letting go, stepping into the new.  it asks us (as all the cards do) "what wisdom is alchemizing within you?"

 card 2 - The Heart - how our hearts come to The Altar, & how best to nourish and access it.  inspiration says allow it to be undone, and moved through.  let it change us in the ways it's meant to. accept this invitation to begin that process.

card 3 - The Body - same question about how best to access and nurture, how is The Body showing up?  the way resource tells it, with age and the person I hope to become, the vessel I'll leave behind with as many gifts to offer those who come after as I can.

card 4 - The Ally - an invitation from the Wheel to access necessary resources to tend The Altar.  relationship tells us to get ourselves some spiritual community for that collective well-being, & true intersectionality.


radical indeed...I dig these cards, with their bold red edges, collage art, and textural allure.  I can feel how So Much went into creating them, and working with them, drawing energy through them, and capturing that moment in digital amber.  I look forward to spending more time with this deck, and getting to know all the myriad ways it can inform and enhance my practice, for and with the collective.  


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