Cilla Conway

The Book of the Dead Oracle

This deck begins at the end, or at least at what we have always believed is the end.

To a large extent, we have been controlled through our fear of death over many aeons. From the moment we are able to talk (and sometimes even before), we’re taken to church or the synagogue or mosque or temple, where it’s intimated, sometimes in these words, that if we are ‘good’, we will go to ‘heaven’, or (if we believe in reincarnation) we will be sent through into a new life which is better than the previous one. Or, if we’ve been ‘bad’, we will go to ‘hell’, or pushed down into another life – say as a vegetable.

However, I don’t believe any of this. I believe that as many of us are born with memories of previous lives, so some form of reincarnation is almost certain. Unfortunately most children lose those memories by the time they are about six. There are also hundreds, if not thousands, of people who have been recorded as dead, in accidents or hospitals, who say that they have gone ‘up’ somewhere, are greeted by loving relatives or even shining beings, but are later told that they have work still to do back on earth. On their return, most of these people change their lives radically – their values have become very different, even after their short stay in this other realm.

That wasn’t how this deck started, though. In 2020 I had just finished the Multi-Dimensional Deva deck, and was wondering if there was a common theme to the many paintings still strewn across the floor. I found a ghost horse, a demon, and a strange, rather haunting painting that looked like lost spirits. The country was just about to go into lockdown (although we had no way of knowing how serious this virus would be). But something told me that it was the right idea and the right time, to produce a western Book of the Dead.

Afterlife Paths

After researching Near Death Experiences, I began to put these ideas and my intuitions down in paint. Pretty soon, though, I realised that whatever happened to us after death, it was unlikely that every spirit would have the same experience as they died. Some would be filled with wonder and joy, some would be confused, some angry, and a few would be so mentally vile that they’d never arrive at all, but would be lost in a psychic hell.

Put it in graphic terms, then, there would be four paths, each one offering a different experience. That worked well visually. Spirits on Path One (probably the least numerous), who would be clear and sincere from their arrival. Path Two spirits (maybe the most numerous?) wouldn’t have much to regret, and are happy to explore this new realm with its many gardens. Path Three, though, would be extremely confused and unhappy – the lost spirits I’d noticed before I began (see above). They aren’t even sure they are dead, probably hang around close to their old lives, joining in seances when they can. Finally, Path Four. They are the obdurate spirits, the drug dealers, killers, abusers, liers – cold-hearted psychopaths. They go ‘down’ instead of up (borne out by a man who attempted suicide, and returned from a near death experience saying ‘he went to an awful place and wished he hadn’t done it.’)

Further Up and Further In

The above quote comes from C.S. Lewis, whose Narnia books were formative throughout my childhood. He was a well-read Christian who had begun as a pagan, and ‘further up and further in’ exhorted his characters to journey deeper and higher into the realms of the Dead. So, too, the spirits in the deck journey through the different landscapes they find in the Afterlife. The spirits on each path gradually find their way further in, joining together or (as in the case of the Fourth Path) staying lost and alone – though it is their choice, in the end.

Most spirits unify with their Souls, and progress. Even the unhappy lost spirits on the Third Path find their way further in (Recovery, above), and later some decide that they will choose to reincarnate (Choices). The rest will move further up and further in, until they reach the Rainbow Bridge and go over, into the deepest realms. We have no way of explaining what these will be, particularly as NDEs report that the light and colours, sounds and scents, are indescribable.
This is a deck where I have allowed myself to imagine the most ideal of places, where not only humans but animals and beings from the furthest dimensions of creation are welcome, a realm which is not fixed or static but wondrously dynamic. Be aware, though, that as an oracle, it needs to be used carefully: it extends a particularly benevolent energy, but you should not be surprised at the answers if you reach out without respect.

The Book of the Dead Oracle will arrive in the UK in October 2021. I will post reviews as soon as I get them. Meanwhile, I have a very short clip from the printers, which gives a good idea of what the deck will be like, when it arrives.


Below are links to all of my decks currently available or in production.

The Intuitive Tarot

The Byzantine Tarot

The Shimmering Veil Tarot

The Old Gods Tarot

Devas of Creation

The Multi-Dimensional Devas

The Book of the Dead