Melissa Weiss Steele’s Oracle of Initiation is a 66 card oracle deck, which, as Steele says, “speaks directly to the instinctual and archetypal impulses within the psyche.” Following the sudden death of her husband and a descent into despair, Steele began a journey of initiation and renewal by exploring alone the ancient desert landscape around Santa Fe, New Mexico. Merging with the land, she stripped off the trappings of civilization, painted herself with mud and took thousands of photographic self-portraits holding her camera at arm’s length, which she calls The Painted Body series. Slowly, she discovered the camera’s ability to capture movement and light emanations that echoed her own experience of the spirits and Ancestors of these places. None of these photographs have been altered or retouched in any way.

While the tarot is often described as the soul’s journey, the Oracle of Initiation, on the other hand, offers a journey of the Spirit. The images are haunting, spellbinding, intoxicating, instinctual. When working with them, you enter the immediacy of a timeless Now. Although solitary musings, they resonate with all our relations. Although seemingly personal, they touch both the ancient and universal in each of us. They are an eloquent reminder that the earth is Spirit-embodied and we are one with it. You can see a video deck review and sample reading at Donnaleigh’s blog.

Melissa asked a number of people to write their own impressions of selected cards for inclusion in the text to accompany the decks. This is what I wrote about the two cards I chose:

10 – Preparation

She stands at a threshold outside the cave entrance—womb of the mother. She sniffs dry dirt. Worshipful of opposites, she sees herself reflected in stone—blue darkness to golden light. She places her hand upon the rock, asking permission of the stone people before entering. She waits patiently for an answer. She wills the thrumming heartbeat of the ages to greet her with a pulse. She lets go of everything that came before. Touching stone, she waits for secret signs, a touchstone. She becomes rock, to enter rock.

It is important in the early stages to listen and feel if the way is clear, if the timing is right, if the self is properly attuned. When rocks, caves and minerals are the initiators—the doorkeepers—then one must prepare by slowing down, becoming solid as rock. True happiness is found in preparing well. Freedom is here for the asking. There is no turning aside, no time for impatience. Make ready, for Mystery lurks around the corner.


29 – Resonance

Eyes blindfolded, she goes deep within. Blue, new-moon throat chakra oversees a jeweled doorway, entrance to the inner light. Oh, to receive the message of the midnight sun! Vibration takes over. Sightless knowing that surrenders to not-knowing.

When one resonates deeply in sympathy with another or, even more, with the state of the world, an underlying meaning emerges in voiceless sound so intense it is beyond hearing. It bursts forth in radiant light: lash-light gleaming tears, electric brain-waves, an oscillating ruff leaving a luminous wake.

This is the sensation of wordless empathy—of feeling with others—before you even recognize what it is. Don’t look at the distracting particulars. Turn away. Reflect on it in humility. The cries of millions are a jewel. Hold it close. Become it. This is a compassion, a dark beauty, that makes waves.