Ooh…this is my first circle animal oracle deck! Jamie Sawyer’s Nature Portals is a 52-card circle deck that features open portals for looking into the life of animals, amphibians, insects, birds, and marine life. The premise of the art is to capture a moment in that creature’s life, and allow us, an observer, to watch, listen, and to learn.
The cards are 100 mm in diameter, at 400 gsm cardstock, so there’s a noticeable sturdiness to them. You can really feel the intention of the portals transporting you to the animal world in that card back design. I also love that Sawyer went with a more artistic box design, rather than it being too commercial-focused.
The deck also comes with a Nature Portals Companion Journal. You can buy a print copy of the journal here via Lulu.com and get the digital version of it here. The digital PDF of the journal is free with all purchases of the deck. You’ll get the the PDF upon check-out when you order Nature Portals.
The free companion journal is a 119-page full-color beautifully illustrated guidebook that labels what animals are depicted on each card, facts about each animal, keywords associated with that animal spirit, and then first-person insights into spiritual experiences with those particular animal spirits, written by both Jamie Sawyer and her mother, Gail Sawyer.
The first thing I noticed about the animals featured in Nature Portals is how many unsung heroes are here. I have a few other animal oracle decks that are just full of white wolves, bears, panthers, eagles, and crows, and while you get those here, too, you also get the caterpillar, the horseshoe crab, jellyfish, skunk, and wasp, etc.
I also noticed that animals native to the different continents are all included, along with representation of land, sea, and sky, so even as an animal deck, it’s very inclusive. I love the inclusion of several animals sacred or symbolically significant to East Asian culture: the bat, the cicada, the cow, the fox, the horse, the hummingbird, the panda, the praying mantis, the rabbit, the snake, the turtle– just to name a few.
Sawyer is a tattoo artist by trade and you see an American Traditional influence in her style– bold use of color, a strong emphasis on symbolism, and a timelessly-preserved-in-a-time-capsule vibe. The way she masterfully depicts animals is so deeply expressive, and in a way that feels raw, as they are, and not filtered through a human imagination.
What I mean by that is sometimes oracle deck artwork of animals or animal spirits can feel anthropomorphic in a way that’s more magical-visionary than natural. But here, there’s a National Geographic feel to these glimpses of their lives that I know as an artist is hard to capture, and yet here Sawyer has achieved just that.
The Latin concept of spiritus animalis goes back as far as 300 BC, to describe the human mind and emotions awakened to certain states that can be analogized to certain animals. When we lean in to those animal-like states, we’re more empowered to thrive in particular uncertain or challenging environments.
Thus, working with animal spirits directly, in a way where we intentionally lean in to our irrationality (letting go of rationalism) to let instinct take the wheel, is one method for navigating a situation that we are not able to rationalize ourselves out of. In ancient studies of human anatomy and physiology, certain human sensory activities were described as animal spirits. Concentrated expressions of particular personality traits were also likened to animal spirits, e.g., dog for loyalty, or the deer for religious purity.
Today, in behavioral economics, we still use the term spiritus animalis or animal spirits to describe the emotional state of the collective based on their behavior of financial decision-making. Identifying aspects of our personalities with the personality traits (or spirit) we observe in animals is as old as human self-awareness and is indelibly universal.
While analogizing aspects of human personality traits to what we observe in animals and calling that an animal spirit is a universal human experience, the specific attributes and correspondences we assign animals differ a great deal among cultures.
The example that comes immediately to my mind whenever I talk about this is the snake. In pre-colonized Asian cultures, the snake is symbolic of power, great wisdom, and ingenuity.* Ancient Egypt associated the snake with magic and goddesses associated with fertility and magic; similar associations are documented in Mesopotamia’s earliest religions. But anyone with Christianity ingrained into their upbringing is going to have a hard time dismantling associations of evil with the snake.
* Actually, Asian symbolism for snakes is varied. Snakes have also been historically associated with sorcery and baneful magic (due to its root association with power and supernatural influence), snakes can also take on a negative connotation among the mainstream.
An animal oracle deck is really useful to have in your divinatory toolkit if you’re a professional tarot reader. A bonus card draw from an animal spirits deck to go along with or summarize the tarot reading can help the querent congeal the messages of the reading into something cohesive. In particular, giving them one animal spirit to focus on is a great way for them to activate the attributes of their personality that will empower them to succeed in their aspiration.
If you’ve been feeling a bit like your personal spiritual practices have flatlined, working with animal spirits through Nature Portals might just be your game-changer. Get this deck, get the companion journal journal, and work through meditations, visionary or astral journeying, and/or free-writing on each animal spirit. There are lined pages after each card entry in the Nature Portals journal where you can add in your own impressions and insights.
As you write out both your intuitive and learned knowledge of each animal’s powers and attributes, you’re not only creating your own card meanings guidebook for this animal oracle deck, but you’re advancing your spiritual practice by amplifying different aspects of your inner self by invoking the animal spirit that is the concentrated, purified form of that aspect.
Sawyer’s Nature Portals Oracle is such an underrated deck. I think the deciding factor for consumers comes down to whether you want assigned keywords or oracular phrases printed directly on the animal spirit cards. Those tend to be more popular with the masses, whereas Sawyer’s Nature Portals feature the portal glimpse into each animal’s life, and only that. There are no keywords, because the point is to activate your animal spirit and feel the message instinctively.
This deck trains you to override reliance on rationalism to embrace your inner spiritus animalis aspect. You connect psychically to the imagery of the animal, and rather than have the divine messages come to you through words lining thoughts, the messages come as instinctive behavior that mirrors the behavioral patterns of the animal spirit you’ve invoked.
If you’ve been looking to work more closely with animals as oracles in your spiritual practice, then Sawyer’s Nature Portals is a great place to start. I was gifted this deck by the creator, who is a friend of mine, without any expectation of a review. I’m sharing my thoughts on the deck anyway because I believe many of you are going to love Nature Portals Oracle.