Way of the Horse: Equine Archetypes for Self-Discovery is a magnificent oracle deck by Linda Kohanov with paintings by Kim McElroy. The set is published by New World Library, a California-based New Age independent publisher that has published the likes of Joseph Campbell before.
I love horses. I always have. As a kid, I got this how-to-draw book on horses and I lugged that book and a sketchpad everywhere until I mastered– okay, “mastered”– the art of drawing horses. I then ended up marrying Hubby, who was born in the year of the Horse per the Chinese zodiac. So the spirit of horses and I have a thing.
Thus, it’s no surprise that I connected to the Way of the Horse oracle deck right away. It’s also a beautifully packaged book and deck set. Good job, New World Library! Wow. What an absolutely magnificent product to behold.
The box set includes a slot for the hardcover book, a book that has that 1980s library book vibe to it, or at least that’s my impression. Then the back half slot opens up (and closes magnetically) to reveal the deck.
The deck comes in its own little box, which I removed because I want to show off the beautiful card backs in the above photo. Here’s what it looks like stored away with the card box:
The back portion of the box closes magnetically, and every which way you turn, the artwork is magnificent.
The cardbacks aren’t exactly reversible, but that’s okay. That taijitu (or yin yang symbol, as y’all call it) with the yin and yang horses is just awesome. The cards are 3.5″ x 5.0″ with a matte finish and absolutely a comfort to hold and shuffle.
I love the book, which has a very 1980s library book feel to it. I’m almost done reading it cover to cover and just love it. A lot went into writing this book. It isn’t just entries of card meanings. Social issues are raised, like gender equality and leadership; psychology is analyzed, like the psychology of fear; there are spiritual ruminations, classical music and literary references, equine facts and observations of horse behavior, and a remarkable lot of information packed into 244 pages, plus an index.
My only gripe is with the box packaging. The book is such a tight fit inside its box compartment that it takes a lot of shimmying, nails, and yanking to get the book out of the box. But of course once you do, you are rewarded with an amazing text.
I love that some of the cards are vertical while others are landscape. In every card you will find a figure of a horse, though in some, it make take a bit of study (like cards 10, 14, or 32, for a few examples). Some of the cards are borderless and others have a defined black border that works well with the accompanying art.
To use this deck I do treat it as bibliomancy in a way, because (at least for me) I can’t read these cards without the accompanying book. For example, if I drew Card 15 as pictured above in the bottom right corner, I wouldn’t know where to begin, other than to maybe say that the horse appears quite defiant. An intuitive reader might let the spirit of the white horse with open flare nostrils draw her in and see where her imagination takes her. Since that’s not how I read and I ground my work in symbolism, I do have to look up the card in the book.
Card 15, for instance, is “Vigilance.” Keywords do not appear on this deck like in other oracle decks. Here’s the card description: “The white horse at the edge of the herd catches wind of possible danger. Is it time to flee? Fight? Or relax and go back to grazing?”
There’s an I Ching Book of Changes vibe to the structure of these card entries. First you a few short verses. Then you have a section that the author calls “The Gift,” indicating the positive indications of the card. Next is “The Challenge,” indicating aspects of its shadow. Then you have “The Journey,” the longest section of the entry, usually written in first person, with personal stories and ruminations from the author. In this particular entry, we delve a bit into psychology, horse riding, and ruminations on vigilance and vulnerability. At the end of the entry there are “Related Wisdom” cards, showing which cards in the oracle deck relate to that card. Here, for instance, Card 3, “The False Self” or Card 14, “Eye of the Storm” relate to Card 15, so if perhaps in a multi-card reading with this deck, related cards appear, a practitioner would note the significance of that synchronicity or pattern.
To be fair, you can understand the emotional essence of each card from the image. In Card 26, for example, without knowing more, you can get the sense it’s about birth, beginnings, or nurture. Not far off at all. The card is called “Promise,” according to the book, and signals auspicious beginnings, conscious birth, and the nourishment of new life. The book entry then goes on to talk about the miracle of life, motherhood, and the unconscious self-interest of parents who say to their children, “I want you to achieve what I never achieved; I want you to be somebody in the eyes of the world, so that I, too, can be somebody through you. Don’t disappoint me. I sacrificed so much for you,”
(Oh my God, that’s Chinese parenting 101! There isn’t an Asian kid on this planet who hasn’t heard that before. My father, though, has never once said anything close to that to me. He said repeatedly to his daughters, “Whatever you do, and it is your choice, do it to the best of your ability. There must be devotion in all that you do. That is the only achievement you need to accomplish in life, but if you do achieve that, you will be on a path to greatness.” Okay, I’m paraphrasing a ton. He is a man of very few words so he may have more literally said, “Do what you want, but do your best.”) Sorry for the tangent. Back to the oracle deck.
So we see clearly that the deck is beautiful, but how does it fare in divination? Here is the first card I drew from the deck in a reading for myself:
Before turning to the book, I see that image, a stone replica of the body and flesh of the sentient horse. There’s something here about two selves, or two faces, something like that. Perhaps it is the false appearance of impenetrability. Also, I note that this isn’t a wild horse. It’s got reins on it. I think that detail is significant.
Okay, now we turn to the book. Card 3 is “The False Self.”
Don’t strive so hard to appear perfect, the card seems to say. Be open-minded and do not set convictions in stone because that is the quickest path to worshipping false idols.
The entry talks about riders who put up superficial appearances, and how horses can sense through that. The card talks about the materiality and superficial aspects of the “American Dream,” designer objects, luxury, McMansions, and so on.
If you connect to the spirit of horses on any level, I think you almost have to get this oracle deck. I love working with it and the card meanings aren’t fluffy puffy love and light, peaches and cream angelic messages that we’ve grown accustomed to from most contemporary oracle decks. There is so much going on here than this simple blog post can convey and the book itself is a deep well of knowledge and information. Why this deck hasn’t generated more hype from tarot/oracle peeps, I have no idea.