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.
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 is now available, and is being mailed out now. The Hermit’s Cave has done a lovely review and others will be posted as I get them.
REVIEW OF BOOK OF THE DEAD ORACLE, BY JOHN MATTHEWS
This is, perhaps, one of the most important oracles printed in our time (the qualification is personal rather than a statement of fact).
Books of the Dead, of which the most famous is the Egyptian, have existed for centuries. They are, indeed, nothing less than handbooks which describe the journey made by the soul following death. Where this leads, and how the journey is detailed, depends to some degree on the culture from which it emerged rather. Thus, the Tibetan book of the Dead, the Egyptian and even the Celtic, are very different. Here, Cilla Conway, following from her series of visionary decks, including Divas of Creation, The Shimmering Veil Tarot and The Byzantine Tarot, brings her depth of awareness, her luminous painterly skill, and her compassionate view of life and death (both before, during and after) into a deck which is both beautiful and haunting
It presents a series of glimpses into the journey all souls are believed to take. Much is based on the extensive study of Near-Death-Experiences, which present a vast accumulation of experiential evidence that points to a number of possible destinations following the death of the body. The most remarkable thing about Cilla Conway’s deck is that it opens the consciousness to far more than the anticipation of our passing (fearful or rejoicing according to the individual). It shows how the enjoyment of life can be strengthened by an acceptance of the two sides of a single coin – life and death. As the quotation from Lao Tzu, which heads the book, states: “Life and death are one thread; the same line viewed from different sides.”
What is also central to this deck is the great beauty of the cards – many as mysterious as life itself – and the wonderful production values applied to them. No commercial publisher is currently doing anything like this. Here craftsmanship is everywhere obvious, from the outside of the box to the quality of the card stock, and of course the power of the amazing images. Whatever your approach to the subject, you will find much wisdom and kindness in this deck. To handle or use it is both profound and inspiring.
And a lovely testimonial from Brenda, about this deck.
“Not quite sure how you have managed to capture the images that you create.
Can’t imagine it at all. In the confusion and chaos of these uncertain times your otherworldly visions bring us inspiration and hope that we may be able to connect to our highest good.
It is such a gift to have the chance to experience the magic of your higher sight. Thank you for sharing your journey.”