Friday, December 9, 2011

REVIEW: Voice of the Trees

REVIEW

Voice of the Trees: A Celtic Divination Oracle
by Mickie Mueller
Published by Llewellyn Publications
ISBN 978-0-7387-1554-4
Boxed kit includes a 25-card deck and a 288-page book



FROM THE PUBLISHER'S PRODUCT SUMMARY

"With a rustling of branches, a whisper on the wind, the wise old trees of the Celtic world share their secrets with those who seek counsel. This beautifully crafted oracle sheds light on the mysterious teachings of the ogham, the sacred Celtic tree alphabet."

BASIC INFORMATION

The creator of this deck is Mickie Mueller, an award-winning artist of fantasy, fairy, and myth.  You can see some of her artwork on her website at www.mickiemuellerart.com . To read my interview with Mickie here on Tarot Notes, click HERE.

In her Introduction to the 288-page book that accompanies the deck, Mueller tells us of her long-standing spiritual connection to trees. She writes that her purpose in designing the Voice of the Trees oracle "was to share the Celtic tree ogham with modern practitioners of various earth spirituality paths and cartomancers, as well as those who wish to more deeply explore their Celtic heritage."

I especially like the part where Mueller talks about the pronunciation of the word "ogham." She writes: "augum, oh-am, oh-gum, oh-yam, and ach-ham, among others; all are valid, depending on whether you ask someone from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany, or the many regions therein." Before, I was always worried that I was pronouncing it "wrong." Now I know that's nearly impossible to do. No matter how I pronounce it, it will be "right" to some and "wrong" to others.


The Voice of the Trees book contains the following sections and chapters:
Preface
A Note on the Art
Introduction
-    The Celtic Tree Connection
-    How Stands the Forest?
-    What Awaits You on This Journey
How to Use This Oracle
-    Reading the Messages of the Trees
-    Dedicating the Cards
-    Making and Dedicating the Crane Bag
A Field Guide to the Cards
A Passage Through the Grove: Ogham Tree Devotionals and a Meditation
Ogham Tree Magic
Card Layouts
-    Dragon's Eye Spread
-    Oak Tree Spread
-    The Newgrange Spread

A card is provided for:
  • Birch
  • Rowan
  • Alder
  • Willow
  • Ash
  • Hawthorn
  • Oak
  • Holly
  • Hazel
  • Apple
  • Vine
  • Ivy
  • Broom/Reed
  • Blackthorn
  • Elder
  • Silverfir/Elm
  • Gorse
  • Heather
  • Aspen
  • Yew
  • Grove
  • Spindle
  • Gooseberry
  • Woodbine
  • Beech

The Bibliography in the back of the book provides a long list of resources that can be used to learn more about Celtic lore, mythology, and history. At the very end, Mueller directs us to the website for Trees for Life, a charity working to help restore the Caledonian Forest.

In the Field Guide section, we are given a great deal of information about each of the 25 ogham fews (letters, symbols) that Mueller has chosen for this oracle. For each we are given a Celtic Name (with pronunciation!), Letter, Status (Chieftain, Peasant, or Shrub), Divining Charm, Divinatory Meaning, Reversed Meaning, Symbolism and Lore, and a Field Guide describing the tree in detail.

The cards themselves have the name of the few at the top and key words at the bottom. The images incorporate human beings and animals as well as trees. In Mueller's words, "In doing this, I wanted to show that our interaction with the trees is important, and also to make each card more intuitive so that when you look at each one, the image triggers an emotional response, telling you the story of what the card means."

For example, the keywords for Beith / Birch are Growth and Beginnings. On the card we see birch trees and "a boy of a Celtic tribe, his pony packed with birch saplings." The boy wears "green and yellow, the colors of spring and growth." He is heading out to plant the saplings. The keywords for Saille / Willow are Intuition and The Unseen. On that card we see a priestess blessing a scrying bowl of water beneath a willow tree on a full moon night. The owl flying by is "a sacred symbol of the wisdom of the White Goddess."

In the chapter on Ogham Tree Magic, Mueller includes spells for healing, finding the answer to a question, protection, bringing love, prosperity, unlocking your success, and healing the earth.

The final pages of the book include write-ups on three related  Llewellyn books: The Healing Power of Trees by Sharlyn Hidalgo, Flower and Tree Magic by Richard Webster, and Whispers from the Woods by Sandra Kynes.

APPEARANCE, SIZE, QUALITY

The 4-1/2" by 2-3/4" cards are printed on laminated, typical Tarot card stock. A tan border runs around the cards, and on that border are printed the name of the tree and the key words associated with that card. Those who like to remove the borders from their cards will lose the tree names and key words.

On the backs of the 25 cards we see a circular figure known as Fionn's Window or Fionn's Shield, surrounded by a Celtic knot tree depicted in its four seasons.

Fionn's Window is a mandala-like diagram found in the Book of Ballymot, from the 14th century.

The 288-page book is a 5" x 8" paperback, with full illustrations of the cards in black and white. I like the way the book is organized and appreciate the wealth of information therein. On the front of the book, a female Celtic warrior poses with Fionn's Shield.

ART

Mueller works by hand in a mixed media of watercolor and colored pencil. You may have seen her art before in divination decks (The Well Worn Path, The Hidden Path) or in Llewellyn's Magical Almanac, Witchcraft & Wicca Magazine, The Witches' Voice, and Magickal Light Magazine, and on the covers of various new age and occult publications. The art on the Voice of the Trees cards is realistic, colorful yet soft in tone.

Mueller tells us that for each card, she used "a bit of a botanical sample from the corresponding tree. . . in a magical infusion" that was then mixed with her watercolor paints.

BOTTOM LINE

This deck and book set makes a good showing alongside similar decks such as Liz and Colin Murray's Celtic Tree Oracle (St. Martin's Press) and The Green Man Tree Oracle by John Matthews and Will Worthington (Barnes & Noble Books). Of the three, Mueller's is the only deck in which the art features human beings and animals as well as trees. This is not ideal if you prefer to meditate strictly on the image of a tree. However, I really like this aspect of the Voice of Trees cards. I am looking forward to using my tree-only cards to augment readings with the Voice of Trees.

The background material in the 288-page Voice of the Trees Companion is impressive and, as John Michael Greer has said, "capably researched and sensitively rendered." I have not personally tried the Tree Magic spells described in the book, but I like the idea of using the cards in rituals such as those included by Mueller.




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In accordance with the FTC Guidelines for blogging and endorsements, I hereby disclose that this product was provided by the publisher for free. Other than the occasional review copy, I receive no monetary or in-kind compensation for my reviews.  The substance of my reviews is not influenced by whether I do or do not receive a review copy.

5 comments:

  1. I have to say I usually don't really like Celtic-themed decks, because I do not identify at all with this particular culture. The only decks I have liked so far are the Druidcraft and the Wildwood.

    That said, I REALLY liked the design of the "Voice of the Trees", and I enjoyed reading your review. I think this deck would belong in my 'exception-list', lol!

    Thank you for this review!

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  2. Hello Marina! Well, it's certainly true that not every deck is for everyone. I'm glad you enjoyed the review. This might be a nice little deck to use in combination with your Druidcraft or Wildwood.

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  3. Like Marina, I, too, do not identiry with Celtic culture. However, I LOVE and adore the artwork of Mickie Mueller. She illustrated both "The Well Worn Path," and "The Hidden Path," both co-created by Raven Grimassi and his wife, Stephanie Taylor. As per both of them, Ms. Mueller uses herbs and Reiki in preparing the inks. Her art pops! I AM even more excited about using this Deck. Thanks, Zanna, for another great review!

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  4. Thank you, Robert! I do love Celtic decks (oops, my heritage is showing!) I'm planning to interview Mickie in a future blog entry. Stay tuned!

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  5. OOOHHH!!! Really? I would LOVE to read an interview with Mickie Mueller!! Sorry I did not reply sooner; I AM catching up on several of your posts, but I shall happily stay tuned. Thanks, again, and Happy Holidays.

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I love hearing from my readers!
~ Zanna