I love the concept behind The Phoenician Oracle for so many reasons. First, it’s a great study deck for anyone who wants to become more familiar with the Phoenician letters of the alphabet (these are the same letters featured in the top right corners of the Majors in the SKT). And yet secondly, because of the keywords, the cards function as an easy-to-use oracle deck.
While the creator has categorized this as an oracle deck, and it is, I’m going to be adding a link to it under the label “tarot” for my deck reviews, but will include the notation “Majors only.” That’s because I’ve been working with this deck as a “Majors only” tarot deck.
You can buy the deck straight from the creator off Etsy, here. The deck comes with a tri-fold pamphlet with the 22 card meanings and a description of what’s pictured on each card. And this tri-fold pamphlet is pretty much all you need to get started working with this treasure of an oracle deck.
Aleph (Ox), for instance, features a 3rd century BC mosaic excavated from the ancient city of Volubilis; Beth (House), which in the Torah is a symbol of the lower wisdom, or the “lower Hokhmah” associated with the Shekhinah, features a house from Tunisia; Gimel (Camel) features a floor mosaic from a church in Syria.
Dolath (Door) and He (Window) either correspond with Key 3: The Empress and Key 4: The Emperor respectively or with Key 4: The Emperor and Key 5: The Hierophant, depending on which alphabet letter to key configuration you follow. In ancient Mediterranean myths and lore, both doors and windows operated as links between worlds, and more specifically, between the human world and the divine world. Thus, either system of correspondences works out really well in terms of associations to that portal-between-worlds.
The Phoenicians were a loose confederation who controlled most of the trade that went on in the Mediterranean some 2,000 years. Their alphabet, or Abjad, was adopted by many different cultures, societies, and civilizations because of how easy it was to learn, and its practical uses in commerce.
An alphabet-based system of writing, rather than one based on hieroglyphs or ideograms, made literacy accessible, rather than something reserved for the elite. The Phoenician Abjad is the basis for the Arabic and Hebrew Abjads, and by extension, predecessor of the Greek and Latin alphabets.
Resh features an ivory statue of the chthonic goddess/demoness associated with owls and the netherworld Kilili, the “Woman at the Window” (ša apāta ušarru) found in Nimrud, Assyria (near modern-day Iraq) dated back to the 8th century BC. We describe Kilili with that confused designation of goddess/demoness because she is described as a female demon, but then is also associated with Ishtar, and as an emissary of Ishtar, Kilili personifies wisdom and also possesses the power to heal.
In an incantation corpus known as Beschwörungsrituale an Ištar und Dumuzi, a passage in the text honoring Kilili reads, “You are Kilili … the wisest of the wise, who concerns herself in the matters of people.” (“Wisest of the Wise” is also an epithet associated with Ishtar.) You can read more about the “Woman at the Window” statue and Kilili here at The Melammu Project (an incredible website that is about the usurp the next three hours of your life as you fall down that rabbit hole, promise). (Oops, I kinda derailed off onto a tangent there, but tell me that wasn’t a very interesting tangent!)
Given what you read there “Woman at the Window,” I might have used this image in place of He – Window, but I totally get why it’s here for Resh – Head, corresponding either with Key 19: The Sun or Key 20: Judgement, again depending on which correspondence system you work with.
My only critique of the deck is the resolution quality on some of the public domain images used on these cards, such as the image on Aleph (Ox), Gimel (Camel), Kaf (Palm of Hand), or Ayin (Eye), where the photographic image looks grainy and a bit blurred. Whereas on most of the other cards, the image resolution is perfect. That inconsistency didn’t bother me too much, mainly because the utility and concept of the deck outweighed any of its cosmetic issues.
Melia Cogan created The Phoenician Oracle to work with the Abjad as a form of divination, accompanied by visual artifacts of Phoenician history and culture. This is a 22-card deck that comes in a blue velveteen drawstring bag. If you enjoy decks like the Ibiza Tarot: The Oracle of Tanit premised on Phoenician folk magic, or have been wondering where all the cool Mediterranean, Levantine, or West Asian cultures inspired decks are, then you’ll want to get your hands on Cogan’s The Phoenician Oracle.
Me, personally, I love this deck as a companion oracle deck alongside my SKT. I also work with it in the same way I might work with a Majors only tarot deck. On my personal copy of The Phoenician Oracle, I went in with a gold metallic Sharpie marker and wrote in the Major Arcana key numbers I associate with each Abjad letter, along with the Golden Dawn based astrological/elemental correspondence.
FTC Disclosure: In accordance with Title 16 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations Part 255, “Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising,” I received the Phoenician Oracle from the deck creator for prospective review. Everything I’ve said here is sincere and accurately reflects my opinion of the deck.