Oracle of the Goddess by Anna Franklin; Illustrations by Paul Mason
Review by Valerie Antal 

If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.

The Oracle of the Goddess by Anna Franklin and Paul Mason is a 25-card non-tarot deck, which features representations of goddesses using photos and computer graphic imaging. This technique produced both visually enchanting goddesses and partial, unrealized depictions.

The enlarged image of Artemis on the box cover attracted me to the deck. Clothed in a sheer tunic, she reaches back her arm as if to release an imaginary arrow. The moon forms her bow as her patron deer looks on. The forest wilds and the evening sky comprise the backdrop lit by a single star. At first view, the card appears to be a painting. 

The back of the box shows Ishtar (at top) resolutely wielding a gleaming scimitar. A female lion rests at her feet. Ishtar is nude to the waist where a saffron colored skirt wraps around her body and clings against her thighs in the blowing wind. She stands in front of a sphinx-like statue representing the gate to the Underworld.

I wish the striking power of Artemis and Ishtar carried through the rest of the deck.  The smiling figure of Kwan Yin standing upon a lotus in a calm ocean setting doesn’t fill me with compassion for the world’s suffering. She resembles various pictures of beautiful Asian models, who look very happy to be using luxury facial products. The picture reminds me of when I used to exfoliate my face with adzuki bean powder. Kwan Yin has inspired me to return to my abandoned skin care regimen, so that my skin will not suffer.

There are instances where the mythology of the specific goddess does not completely relate to the image on the card. Freya is shown standing before a snow-covered mountain. The three cats that surround her are charming and active, although they look as if they have been cut and pasted into the scene, as does Freya. Not a single snowflake touches her clothes. I am pleased with Franklin’s choice of a model to represent Freya. She is a lovely voluptuous woman with blond hair whose appearance befits a Norse Goddess. I do not believe that Freya, who is known to use her sensuality as a dynamic force of power, would dress as if she were a peasant at a Renaissance festival. At least give the goddess a plunging neckline to display her well-earned necklace.

I appreciate Franklin’s attempt to create a deck that is representative of real women—with varying body types and sizes, ages, and ethnicities. I wish her choices in displaying partial nudity, most often bare breasts, were not limited to young and athletic women. I am irritated that the breasts shown have been edited and uplifted beyond the capacity of nature. Every nipple in the deck has been painted on in the same exact location of the breast, dead center pointing heavenward.

The Great Goddess card is not limited by unrealistic standards. She is a living Venus of Willendorf, with full breasts and belly clothed in red, the color of the archetypal Mother. I would prefer it if she were pictured within a fertile landscape rather than seated in front of temple ruins. The image however fits with Franklin’s evidence of a matriarchy from temple excavations at Malta and Gazo. 

I was surprised by the choice to not use a different model for each card. I can’t imagine it would have been a challenge to find twenty-five goddess-centered women to pose for an oracle. Unfortunately, no one asked me. I would have gladly offered to bare my natural and anatomically-possible breasts for the purpose of divination.

At times her models can take on the persona of two very different goddesses with great success. Demeter with outstretched arms and an expressive face filled with longing makes me feel the loss of Persephone as I look into the card. I can imagine the field of wheat and flowers dying during the winter of her grief. The Morrigan stands upon a skeleton as a raven searches the battlefield for carrion. She is adorned with skull jewelry and steadfastly holds a wand decorated with black feathers. In the barren tree behind her hang the skeletons of her dead. Her presence commands both warrior menace and dark sensuality.

Franklin’s goddesses do a lot of standing. They often gaze into the distance. Oshun manages to do both and hold an expression that she is looking at something worthwhile. A gazing peacock stands before her. Oshun reaches up to pluck a flower from a lush overhanging branch but her eyes look outward beyond her river. Her joyful smile conveys a sense of happiness and pleasure befitting her mythology.

I admire many of the images in the Oracle of the Goddess. I understand the difficulty of having real women depict goddesses that uphold the strength, power, and complexity of the sacred feminine. Though at times the models get lost in elaborate backgrounds, I find many of the portrayals to be emotive and inspiring. I often use these cards individually for meditation. Artemis, Elen, Blodeuwedd, Morrigan, Moira, and Arianrhod have all spent time on my altar.

Franklin’s book is well researched and excellently organized. All of the goddesses are listed alphabetically to avoid having to constantly reference the table of contents. Franklin manages to include a comprehensive history of each goddess in a short format. The divinatory meanings are relevant and respectful of the feminine archetypes and do not feel overly simplistic. I would recommend the Oracle of the Goddess for the book alone.

As a professional Tarot reader who is knowledgeable in areas of women’s mythological history and Goddess culture, I found this deck to be an affirming divination system. I believe a novice would have trouble retrieving the same detailed results as with a traditional Tarot deck. The images are simply not active enough and there are not enough cards. Franklin offers three spreads: the Pyramid, the Cauldron, and the Arrows of Brighid. I most frequently work with the Cauldron layout. I find this reading useful in identifying upcoming life themes. The goddess mythologies often mirror in a grand way the lives of everyday women. 

I use this deck to read for myself and other goddess-centered women. I have not found the reverse meanings to be useful. Unlike tarot, all of the reverse meanings are negative. Many offer small rituals and advice for meditation to help attune with the goddess pictured. Her suggestions could easily be implemented for upright cards as well. Franklin presents enough diversity in her selection of goddesses to make the reverse meanings unnecessary:

Aphrodite—Love
Arianrhod—Initiation
Artemis—Independence
Atana Potnia—Protection
Athene—Intellect
Black Annis—Dissolution
Blodeuwedd—Rebellion
Brighid—Inspiration
Demeter—Fertility
Elen—Pathfinder
Epona—Journeys
Freya—Sensuality
Great Goddess—Abundance
Ishtar—Sacrifice
Isis—Hope
Ix Chel—Nurture
Kali—Destruction
Kwan Yin—Compassion
Lakshmi—Prosperity
Maat—Justice
Moira—Fate
Morrigan—Strife
Oshun—Pleasure
Saraswati—Learning
Vesta—Hearth

On the back of each card, the moon in three phases representing the Triple Goddess is shown among the dark blue clouds of the evening sky. The picture is a mirror image so the cards may be read reversed or upright. The box containing the book and cards seems more suitable to shipping and display than standard usage. Once the cards have been unwrapped, it is difficult to fit them back into the inner cardboard section without any strays slipping deeper into the box. When the book is added, there is barely any space remaining. I would recommend purchasing a velvet bag or Tarot box to keep the cards from being damaged. Another option would be to remove the cardboard holder and wrap the cards in a silk cloth.

This Oracle of the Goddess would make a wonderful gift for anyone interested in women’s history and mythology. I found the book and cards to be a personal gateway for greater study and reflection. The deck would serve as an empowering offering to a teenage girl wanting to experience the goddess. The strength of the Oracle of the Goddess is found most often within its text, but also within the faces of the women who chose to embody the sacred feminine in her many forms.

If you would like to purchase this deck, click here.

Oracle of the Goddess by Anna Franklin; Illustrations by Paul Mason
Publisher: Vega Books, 2003
ISBN #:  1-84333-630-8

Valerie Antal is a writer and Tarot Reader living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She offers traditional Tarot readings, Goddess Meditation and Celtic Animal Readings via telephone and in person. She is currently working on a book of meditations to the Goddess based on the Celtic Wheel of the Year. For more information about her Tarot practice, please visit her website


Review © 2004 Valerie Antal
Page © 2004 Diane Wilkes