Oracle of Initiation: Rainbows in the Dark by Mellissae Lucia

Mellissae Lucia’s Oracle of Initiation was first released a decade ago in 2012, but it’s new to me, and I am utterly in awe of the breadth and scope of this divination system. This is a review of the deck, but also its 400-page companion book by the same name.

The Oracle of Initiation is the narrative story of one woman’s descent into the underworld and return. It is a mesmerizing photographic memoir of loss, initial resistance with numbness, realizing you need to surrender, and reawakening your inner magic.

At the age of 33, Lucia lost her husband to cancer. She entered limbo. But then she chose to live, to thrive, and supported by spirit guides along the way, went on a 7-year vision quest. These images chronicle her Artemis Return, a concept coined by Lucia.


Artemis is the Greek goddess of the hunt, the wild instinctive wisdom of the feminine within nature. She is a guardian of the untamed within all of us, the primal aspects of our original essence.

Working with Hecate

Like a Saturn Return, an Artemis Return is a cyclical return after a pivotal event in your life, in which you cross a threshold of catharsis, maturation, and awakening, and re-align with that wild instinctive wisdom within.

After her 7-year descent and journeying, Lucia reclaimed her own sense of purpose, actualizing pure and independent self-determination. She is now a leading visionary artist of experimental photography, who specializes in both indigenous dreamwork and archetypal psychology.

The Valkyries

Over the last decade, Oracle of Initiation has won multiple awards, catapulting Lucia to rise as a leading voice in cross-cultural divination.

Working through these breathtaking oracle images with the book will guide you on your own Artemis Return, one that is multi-sensory, kinesthetic, tactile, with visions of reclamation.

My only critique would be the font color of the text on some of the cards. See below, for instance. It’s very difficult for my eyes to read out the text, because it’s black font on dark purple solid background, sometimes dark brown. Finding a different graphic design approach will greatly improve the cards’ readability.

Production design notes aside, the content of the deck is perfection. The oracle is subdivided into 8 gateways:

  1. The gateway of Innocence to discover your potential;
  2. Exploration to locate the threshold;
  3. Initiation to begin the surrender;
  4. Discernment to temper;
  5. Alliance for communion;
  6. Balance for empowerment;
  7. Offering to yield to that higher sacred self; and finally,
  8. Unity, envisioning yourself as one with that higher sacred self.

Gateways are the thresholds you will cross to meet each stage of development as you undergo initiation through your Artemis Return. The Gateways are multi-leveled and built as a progression of actions and perspectives that you will move through.

The imagery on the Gateway cards are inspired by indigenous Scandinavian Sami drums. The Noaidi, or shamans, created runebomme, drums with maps of saivo, spirit worlds upon them. These symbols create portals into the next phase of spiritual transformation.

The deck is not linear, but cyclical in structure. Painted body imagery dance between the various concepts of gender. The final card, number 66, is infinity, signifying an evolutionary process that you have mastered.

Journey into your inner wilderness and learn how to navigate that typography. Undertaking the journey of your Artemis Return avails you to eight gifts, received as you experience the eight gateways:

  1. the gift of Love, learning how to love bigger;
  2. the gift of Purpose, meeting your true purpose and potential;
  3. the gift of Surrender, an essential aspect of any powerful rite of passage;
  4. the gift of Magic, opening all of your senses to the alliances and intelligences of this world, reclaiming your “dual citizenship” living between worlds;
  5. the gift of Collaboration, reclaiming trust;
  6. the gift of Gratitude;
  7. the gift of Passion; and
  8. the gift of Beauty

What’s more, the deck is a hand-held exhibition of fine art photography. As you journey through the Gateway of Innocence, you explore Instinct. Here, through the Direct Elemental Gaze. Instinct is the knowing that you are being called. This moment of initiation is when your soul begins to recognize the direct elemental gaze of your true destiny, and beginning to recognize instinctual wisdom.

Here is also the goddess Athena, a mediator between the intellect and intuition, strategic thought and decisive action. When the Instinct card in this oracle calls to you, look to Athena to reclaim your own visionary instincts as you conquer the challenges and conflicts encountered along the quest.

The painted body images are spirit guardians and guides emerging from between the veils to assist you on your journey. Landscapes represent different regions of the underworld that you are journeying through.

The companion book is phenomenal. There is a spread called Inanna’s Underworld, which I love and highly recommend. It’s a divinatory experience that facilitates integration of your shadow and your light, reconciling both your inner Ereshkigal and inner Inanna.

  1. Who is the guardian you must face at the gateway to the underworld?
  2. What must you sacrifice to meet the transmutation available in this quest?
  3. How are you to navigate the shape-shifting mysteries of the underworld?
  4. What is your greatest challenge or fear that you are meeting along this journey?
  5. What specific tools are available to help you maintain your faith and resilience?
  6. What hidden treasures are gestating in your underworld rainbows in the dark during this fertile time?
  7. Who might you become if you claim the brilliance in your rainbows in the dark?

In mythology, rainbows symbolize bridges, from Bifrost connecting earth with Asgard in the Norse religions to the Navajo tradition of rainbow paths of holy spirits and the Siberian Buryat shamans ascending to the sky-spirit world by way of rainbows. Here, the deck’s theme of rainbows in the dark signify bridges for you to cross from threshold to threshold, progression one gateway after another, to achieve self-discovery.

Returning to the Inanna’s Underworld reading, to the first card, “Who is the guardian you must face at the gateway to the underworld?” my message was Remembrance, taking me to the Gateway of Unity. This is the beginning of reunification, remembering my vast connection to everything, and revealing one’s own sacred luminosity.

For each card, the guidebook provides a journaling prompt. Here, it’s “What ancient resources have you reclaimed access to, and how will you wield this inspiring power?” That is the knowledge I am being called to explore. Look upon the imagery of the card, Lucia’s powerful photographic art, and hear the voice speak: Release Ancient Encoding.

Here, we meet Cerridwen, the Celtic mood goddess of magic, transformation, and shape-shifting. Cerridwen is the remembrance of your ancient abilities to channel wisdom and magic into inspiring potions of regeneration.

Return your gaze to the card, Remembrance. The voice of Cerridwen speaks, and you’ll find a transcript of the message in the book: “Come to me when you have forgotten your own imaginative potential…Come to me when your magic wishes to be revealed. Do not fear your own powers as a midwife birthing your New Reality.”

White Painted Woman

Learn about Grandmother Spider, the Diné (Navajo) creation goddess, White Painted Woman, the Apache personification of the order of the universe, Persephone, Isis, Cerridwen, Oshun, Yemaya, Juksahkka, the Sámi grandmother of the bow, just to name a few.


Lucia collaborates with many members of our tarot community and they share poignant insights in this guidebook. Accompanying each card entry is a short narrative essay written by a community member. These essays explore what the various themes and gateways of the Oracle mean to them, their own spiritual experiences, and their words of wisdom to you.

The abstract portrait photography in this collection are enchanting. They stir something in you. Descend into a trance-like state, induce visions inspired by this spiritual art, and connect with a feral aspect of your self that up to this point you have been too afraid, too timid to let out.

I’m intrigued by Mellissae Lucia’s concept of the Artemis Return, and if such an experience is intriguing you, too, consider this deck and book pack. Milestone by milestone, Lucia’s voice– and the collective voice of community, of elders and peers– guide you as much as the imagery and sigils invoke the presence of gods and goddesses from various pantheons around the world.

Order the Oracle of Initiation by Mellissae Lucia

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 deck from the artist for prospective review. Everything I’ve said here is sincere and accurately reflects my opinion of the deck.

5 thoughts on “Oracle of Initiation: Rainbows in the Dark by Mellissae Lucia

  1. Jo Ziggy

    Stunning . Well worth investing in a purchase of this force of creative journeying. So many seem to avoid stepping into the underworld or sitting with our Shadow. I sense this deck would give the timid courage!


    1. The deck is a great Mystery in many ways. I will be apprenticing to its wild, shapeshifting beauty for the rest of my life. I love how it works uniquely with each one who is called to its rainbows in the dark magic. Thanks for truly seeing it friend.


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