Angel Journey Cards by Terry Lynn Taylor and Mary Beth Crain, Illustrated by Brian Williams
Review by Diane Wilkes

Angels are a hot property these days, which explains the proliferation of published decks with an angel theme. Naturally, there is a range of quality with these decks, both in terms of structure and artistic content. Terry Lynn Taylor is one of the more substantive angel authors and Brian Williams created the art for this deck, so this offering is definitely in the highest echelon of angel deckdom. 

Even the packaging is aesthetically pleasing to the eye; the set comes in an eight and a half by five and a half inch box that displays one of Williams' angels in the subtlest of pastels in the background, with a border of various gold-foil patterns. The book cover is almost identical and its elegance makes opening the book an inviting prospect. The cards are nestled beneath the book in a well. The box does stick with age, making opening it somewhat of an athletic adventure if you haven't looked at it in a while!

The 55 card deck is divided into three categories: Angel of the Season (4 cards), Symbol (24 cards), and Journey (27 cards). The Season cards are pretty self-explanatory, as are the symbol cards, which range from objects and animals you find in nature (tree, rainbow, lion, dove, clouds) to items associated with angels (harp, wings) to more idiosyncratic selections (Yin/Yang symbol, hearth, candle, telescope (!), book). The descriptions for these cards are extremely brief. The authors focus the majority of the book on the Journey cards, which are divided, like the deck, into three sections: Soul, Spirit, and Nature. These cards are to be read upright or reversed (with some exceptions, such as the Artful Dreaming and Adversity cards, which have no reversals). Soul Journey cards relate to our divine purpose, Spirit Journey cards connect us to our creative energy and divine inspiration to assist us in that divine purpose, and the Nature Journey cards draw in our physical connection to the divine.

These cards are as follows:

Soul Journeys

Feminine Wisdom
Guardian Angel
Artful Dreaming

Spirit Journeys                                                   Nature Journeys

Air                                                                     Earth
Sun                                                                    Saint Francis
Beauty                                                               The Faeries
Spirit of the Mystic                                             Physical Body
Angel Warrior                                                    Balance
Humor                                                               Abundance
Freedom                                                            Security
Fire                                                                   Adversity
Silence                                                              Sacred Garden

Each of these cards is discussed at great length. The image and what it represents is described and defined. An essay follows, along with upright and reversed (if applicable) meanings. Finally comes "The Journey," a card-appropriate meditation or exercise with "Room for Reflection" questions to ponder at the end. The Journey for the Water card involves a spiritual baptism meditation,  the Journey for Earth, an exercise where you have to select five things to take with you for a week spent completely outdoors. As a decidedly indoors person, this journey taught me some things I preferred not knowing about myself. As Earth Queen Martha Stewart would say, "That's a good thing."

The authors describe the Angel Journey deck as an oracle, and spend considerable time and space discussing oracular purpose, which they define as asking for direction, and not necessarily a means of divining the future. Or, in their words: "If we expect the oracle to tell us whether or not to do something, we are, in essence, giving our power over to it. But when we ask for direction, we are prepared to do the work."

While angel decks in general rarely hold much excitement for me, this deck has one thing that convinced me to buy it: Brian Williams' artwork. It's just lovely and poetic. While pastel doesn't usually excite me, either, Brian's angels manage to be ethereal and human, graceful and real. Even the more mundane subjects take on a classical patina in Brians' hands: the book is no Bantam paperback but something out of antiquity, held reverently, even eloquently.

Cards measure approximately three by five inches and are on good, but not sturdy, matte cardstock. Card backs are light green and white, not reversible, and depict a many-feathered angel.

This deck is out of print, which is a shame when you consider the far inferior angel products that you can still buy at your local Waldens. While I don't recommend this deck for everyone, I think that anyone with a passing interest in angels or tarot enthusiasts who have grown to appreciate the work of Brian Williams would find the Angel Journey cards a set well worth tracking down.


Image: Jacob wrestling with the angel.

Represents: Adversity as the gateway to awareness. Adversity as a natural part of life. Opportunity disguised as loss. Finding our inner strength. Turning obstacles into challenges. Turning pain into art. Knowing when to push ahead and when to retreat. Coming to a deeper understanding and appreciation of joy through pain.

The biblical story of Jacob and his wrestling match with the angel of the Lord casts an interesting light on the nature of adversity. In the story, it is nighttime; a man appears to Jacob out of nowhere and begins to wrestle with him. The struggle continues until daybreak, but Jacob eventually reigns supreme and his mysterious adversary begs for a truce. "Not until you bless me," says Jacob. The man blesses not only him but the future generations of Israel. Sensing something out of the ordinary here, Jacob asks the man his name and receives only the cryptic reply, "Why do you ask me that?" The stranger disappears, and Jacob realizes that his opponent was no ordinary human being--that Jacob had, in effect, "met the Lord face to face" in this baffling, wondrous encounter.

Jacob's mysterious adversary, whom biblical scholars refer to as an angel, can be viewed in the context of this card as the Angel of Adversity. who bestows upon Jacob the gift of divine challenge. This challenge, which we must all face in some way or another throughout our lives, is really a gift, because it can bring out inner reserves of strength we never knew we had, and it can carry us to new heights and triumphs. Like Jacob's angel, it can be a blessing in disguise. 

If you have drawn the Adversity card, take heart. Know that what now seems a tragedy, a frustration, a cause for pain, is instead, when viewed from the proper perspective, a chance for new growth, new insight, new life. In his Book of Runes, Ralph Blum has an excellent term for adversity: "opportunity disguised as loss." If you are facing a loss in any way, from a loss of a person, relationship, or job to loss of a part of yourself, perhaps the part that once seemed so relaxed, confident, and able to handle anything, this card encourages you to view the situation not as a burden or curse, but as an opportunity to learn about yourself and your own inner resources. You are being asked to trust that the empty space of loss will be filled, in time, with something even more wonderful and appropriate for you.

To the angels, adversity is a creative challenge. When we overcome it, we also come in touch with our creative power, our inner source of ingenuity and inventiveness that is always available to be drawn from in any situation. The Adversity card tells us to take the creative approach to our difficulties; learning to handle opposition inventively is the beginning of wisdom. This may seem easier said than done, but remember: Great art is often the outgrowth of great pain. This card asks, How can you turn obstacles into challenges? What art can you make from your pain? This may be a good time to begin expressing yourself creatively in writing, painting, dancing, acting, or any way that can help you to leash your creative power and rechannel negative into positive energy. Understand that in times of adversity, physical and mental movement is crucial, for it will lead to a corresponding movement on the emotional and spiritual levels of our being, and a change for the better is inevitable.

You can read a tribute to the artist of this deck, Brian Williams, here.

Images 1996 HarperSanFrancisco
Review and page 2002 Diane Wilkes