Oracle of Initiation

Deck Name: Oracle of Initiation, Rainbows in the Dark
Creator(s): Mellissae Lucia 
Publisher & Year: Self-Publish, Original printing 2012; Review of Luxe Edition 2020
Availability: Etsy –  MellissaeLuciaArt
Instagram: @Mellisaelucia

What is this thing?

“Initiation is an invitation.” Oracles of Initiation, Rainbows in the Dark, M Lucia

I thought I knew what I was getting into with Mellissae Lucia’s Oracle of Initiation.  These 72 cards are the result of a 7 year journey, spanning geography, emotion, and artistry, after the death of her husband.  Painted in colors of the earth, just her nude body and her camera, she took thousands of photos (70,000 images!) and distilled the experience into this deck.  The art, like the process, is raw, unedited, visceral, and oh so powerful.

I, too, have known initiations, some arise on their own, or chosen sacraments that were earned, acknowledged, and encircled with smiles, incense, and candlelight.  Then there are the ones life offers, perhaps demands of us all:  death, loss, change, heartbreak, growth.  

I thought I knew initiation.

I pulled the Oracle of Initiation book and deck from the packaging and felt the tension of a gathering storm or a spell gaining traction.  I dropped it on my working surface, hands tingling.  I never do much research before initial impressions so I had no idea what was coming.  What the heck was this thing?  Immediately more than I expected, apparently. I thought it was an artist doing what artists do, allowing us entry as she processed life through art.  I was not expecting an object of reverence capable of offering the same to me as well.

I metaphorically paced around it awhile, waiting for the feeling to pass.  It didn’t.  Not for a long time, weeks, then months.  That first day, without opening the book or even seeing the box, I knew this was something special.  

I opened the mailer, smiled at the open-hearted personal note and other works.  I’m glad I noted this all down before lifting the last post card, because as I expected, it happens.

The box photo is of an androgynous figure, blue-grey skin with a streak of red down the center of face, nose, mouth, even over hair and down the neck.  I exhaled and rested in the void between breaths.

It was then I became certain this deck was going to make me feel things.  Grasp me.  Snatch me.  Hold me.  It drew me in, the way great art should.  And just like any invitation into initiation, it set me off on a journey.

But before we go, let’s cover the specs.

This large Luxe edition is of glossy, bendy, 4 x 6” cards that demand overhand shuffling but are worth the view.  Both it and the tarot sized version are available on etsy.  I love the black card backs with the red circle with lines going through it, a symbol of the moon as seen on indigenous Scanadinavian Sámi drums.

There are 67 numbered cards starting and ending with 3 special cards Luminescence 0, 66 Infinity, and 88 Rainbow Oracle.  I also received an alternate version of 47 named Centering, alternate changed to Equilibrium with different card art.  I jokingly think the deck creator must know my struggles with “balance” and gifted me a more dynamic option to see when I need it the most. 

Additionally, there are a few extra cards for information and other works, rounding out the total to 72 cards.  One of these cards kindly provides an overview of the deck structure.  This is helpful in two ways.  The first is in case you are separated from or do not have the companion book (sold separately), and the second is to help chart your way if you are using the deck like I often do, as a map.

“Initiation requires this visionary perspective, embracing the paradoxical wisdom of devolving to ascend; of becoming earthen and embodied to experience our divine illumination.” – Oracle of initiation: Rainbows in the Dark (book)

The deck is broken into 8 realms, invitations towards change.  The first of each section is a threshold of greater weight, since the developmental state is also the focus of the realm itself. From there, we can further explore that stage through 7 more cards that reflect the realm theme through the lens of the other 7 realms.  As a tarot reader, I immediately likened the Gateway cards to the pure elemental essence of the Ace of a suit and the other cards similar to the mingling elemental attributions of court cards. (Examples – In the suit of Cups as elemental water, then the earthy bit of water = Page/Princess of Cups. In swords, the fiery bit of air = King of Swords)

The 8 Gateway Cards are:

Gateway of Innocence:  Love

Gateway of Exploration:  Purpose

Gateway of Initiation:  Surrender

Gateway of Discernment:  Magic

Gateway of Alliance:  Collaboration

Gateway of Balance:  Gratitude

Gateway of Offering:  Passion

Gateway of Unity:  Beauty

Preceding these is card Zero, Luminescence, “the birth canal into embodied innocence, divinity incarnate.”  Immediately following is number 66, Infinity which is Integrated Mastery.

The book, Oracle of Initiation rainbows in the Dark has marked tabs divided by Gateway along the edge for ease of reference.  Each card has a full page, black and white photo of the card, it’s number, the interplay of the energies within the Gateway, followed by a brief write up describing the current stage of the journey.  The Gateway cards also include overview of the chapter ahead.  Mellissae also gives us a unique spread for each realm that really showcases what the cards can do. 

If we stopped here, this would be a fine map.  But, like infinity, it doesn’t.  It circles back into itself and goes deeper to help me understand why it hits me so hard.  The next page(s) are dedicated to “[a] specific guardian – a goddess, god, or archetype corresponding to the energy of that Painted body spirit – and a channeled message from that guardian.” These energies are varied, multicultural, and refreshing in their diversity.  There are spirits and gods I know personally and out of surprise and incredulity, I checked for their energetic scent woven into this deck.  The partnerships feel genuine, not diversity for diversity’s sake.  Speaking of partnerships, you’ll recognize some names of the 22 collaborators who contributed channelled messages about the cards to provide more depth such as Mary K Greer and Luisah Teish.

By this point, I was both thoroughly unsettled and delighted by the impact this deck was having on my life.  It read so true, kept nudging me forward just when I’d begun to play small and safe again.  I also couldn’t believe she’d pulled it all off.  So as a welcome distraction from my own journey, I circled back to look more closely at hers.  I won’t retell it in its entirety, (get the book!), but let’s go ahead and talk about the elephant in the room. 

The artist is a fascinating human with experiences that go from hip-hop, to horseback, to Hopi to start.

And.  (I’m so sick of having to include this “and”)

She’s a blond, white woman from Seattle, now living in the Southwest region of the USA.  One of the reasons I don’t do research prior to getting cards in hand is to let the deck speak for itself and to ward off assumptions.  Based on historical and repetitive bad behavior by other humans who looked like her (aka a long history of a white person discussing spirits outside of their birth culture), I was tempted to be skeptical.  It didn’t take more than a cursory look to see the brown tones of Gaia as the literal sand and earth of the land itself and not what one could fear was blackface.  Then I heard her reference, more than once, lines from hip hop artists, in a way that showed the long time familiarity of a fan.  I looked again at how multi-cultural the deck was, not just in form, but in imprinted energy.  As a practitioner myself, I know the spirits don’t talk like this to folks they don’t trust and their energy was coming through clear and strong.  Something interesting is at work with these cards and this human who created them.

On the very last page, a Prayer to Obatala from the artist:

“Obatala, help me to weave with the cloth, 
Please make me far better than I am
At bringing all of the colors of understanding 
of existence, of point of view, of means of
statement together.
Help me to give them more than lip service.
Humbly, before the thrones of the divine realms,
In the presence of all the ancestors whose names
Have been lost”…

I won’t bore you with exact receipts, but there was a distinct point where my notes drift off and I simply wrote “She’s invited to the barbecue.”  Melissae Lucia’s art moves through Oracle of Initiation with reverence and appreciation and has too much respect, familiarity, and dedication for appropriation.  

I was so relieved and grateful I could unabashedly love this deck.

It’s been quietly working on me.  There were weeks, months, when I couldn’t write this review.  Meanwhile day after day, we, Mystery and I, rewrote who I was becoming.

So what happened to me?

It’s hard to put into words where I was months ago. So instead I’ll say this:  Today is not a special day.  That’s what makes it important. 

I had ample time, energy, and capacity for tending self, home, and family.  Forward thought yesterday means I am not over-committed and under-prepared today.  I woke up willingly this morning, dressed in things already in my closet and jewelry box.  My hair?  Accidentally lovely.  I even added the smallest bit of makeup because the idea and ease of execution delighted me.

Today was not a special day and I feel fantastic… which is to say light enough for curiosity and spacious enough to allow room for others and still honor and hear myself.  I’m doing exactly what I desire to be doing right now and would change absolutely nothing about this moment.  I’m just drinking coffee, writing, outside in the still cool light of a summer morning, the hum of AC units unable to drown out birdsong.  Soon the rest of my day, full of other work and opportunities, will begin.  These things pull my heart forward but do not own me.  I would wish this place, this peace, this process on anyone I love.

Oracle of Initiation brought me here.

The jarring disruption and blurring, the visceral beauty and power of this deck was exactly what I needed.  It went right to my primal core, into my dreams, and demanded I no longer deny or delay my journey.  Everything changed, my sense of identity, the very work I did in the world, all transformed from the inside out.

And we’re not done.  

The invitation remains, ever calling us forward into Initiation.