The Burning Serpent Oracle is on Indiegogo

The Burning Serpent Oracle is on Indiegogo

72dpi Burning Serpent Cover  and Deck

The Burning Serpent Oracle campaign is live on Indiegogo.

You can preorder the book and deck here:

We have actually met our initial goal, and in under 24 hours!!  We are so grateful to everyone who’s joined us so far.  However, this does NOT mean the campaign is over.  Far from it.  We are continuing to our final day of April 24, to make sure that everyone who wants this deck and book can pre-order their copy, so that as soon as it arrives we can send it out to them.  And the extras continue!  We also plan to add some new ones, so check back.

Rachel’s 7 minutes of fame–with a hint of The Burning Serpent

Rachel writes

Readers Studio, the great annual Tarot event, is coming up, and I will be presenting an evening study group. In preparation Wald Amberstone, who with Ruth Ann Amberstone, created and runs RS, has done a series of fascinating 7 minute interviews with the presenters, in which he took the trouble to really consider a worthwhile question for that person. I really enjoyed my discussion with Wald. In the process, I was able (however briefly) to set The Burning Serpent within the context of my life’s work.

Here’s the link.

The House on Beverly Hill

This is the house that was the inspiration for my House on the Hill card in The Burning Serpent Oracle. It is the Spadena House built in a fairytale fantasy style by an art director for a movie director in 1921. since the 1934 it has been in Beverly Hills.

Robert Place

(From Rachel–The thing I love about this is that I suggested to Robert that it would be great if the house had a fairy tale quality about it.  When he found the model he used, via Google Images, I agreed instantly that it was the perfect choice.  Now, from the article–which he only just discovered, we can see how perfect it was.)

You can read more about it here:

Spadena House

A Seven Card Reading About Death, From the Book

So far, we have looked at practical questions, and the ways in which the direct meanings of the cards can give people guidance. As we have seen in the card descriptions, however, there are many layers to The Burning Serpent, and the deck can give powerful messages to deeper questions on fundamental issues. Recently, a very close friend asked me to help her plan her funeral. She was not on the verge of death but had gone through a long, hard struggle with illness, and a sudden crisis had made her conscious that she did not want to wait until it was too late. We talked about what she would like, and who would be involved, and what would be meaningful to the strong loving community of friends and family who she knew would want to mark her passing. Then we decided to consult the cards.

As soon as we set them out, we knew they were not about the practical, or even emotional preparations for a funeral. They spoke about death itself, and the passage of her soul. Here are the cards in the reading (we set them out in a row, but for the sake of fitting them on the page we will show them here in an arc).

A Seven Card Reading About Death Ill 1

For thousands of years, people have visualized the journey of the soul after death as a voyage over water, sometimes a river, but sometimes the sea. Having the Voyage right next to the Dead Tree seems to announce that this passage will be the subject of the reading. Such an interpretation is only strengthened with Hermes the Messenger and the Hound, for one of Hermes’s major roles in Greek myth was to guide the dead to their next existence, and one of the mythological layers of the Hound is Anubis, the jackal (dog) headed god who filled that same role in Egyptian religion. These two sometimes became linked as one figure, Hermanubis, and the presence of both cards, and the Dead Tree, in a reading about a funeral, was like an announcement of what the deck wanted to tell her. At the center of the line, the Hound, facing left, looks back on the life she’s had. At the very end of the line,

Hermes, facing right, brings her the message of looking beyond life to something new. The Gold Ring represents the funeral itself. Or rather, the powerful bonds and commitments that lay behind it. The woman wanted to plan her funeral partly to make a statement about the life she had lived, but even more, to acknowledge the community to which she had dedicated her life. An interfaith minister, she had struggled with hardships and illness to devote herself to her town, her family, and her friends. Though she had been married twice her truest bond was to her community, and it was this Gold Ring of commitment that would be honored at her funeral. On the other side of the Hound from the Gold Ring stands the Bear. The Hound looks backward to her life, and the ending of it in the Dead Tree, as well as the beginning of her Voyage. The Bear can represent something she might encounter as her spirit leaves the funeral behind. One of the card’s specific meanings is a mother, and the woman’s relationship with her own mother had been intense and difficult. If indeed we meet our relatives on the other side,this particular meeting would not be the gentle warm embrace we sometimes see in movies.

Beyond the narrow meaning of mother, the Bear can represent a fierce protectiveness, derived from the way a mother bear guards her cubs. We tend to assume with this interpretation that we are either the protector or the protected. But what if we’re the outsider? Around the world, traditions of religion, mythology, and visionary meditation speak of a fearsome “Guardian at the Threshold” who guards—protects—the secrets of the afterlife. For some it’s a demon, for others a powerful animal. One of the prime functions of Anubis is to guide the soul past such a monster. Might the Bear signify that kind of meeting? We might recall that the very oldest ceremony known to human history, dating all the way back to the Neanderthals, yet carried through into the modern era bythe Ainu peoples of Japan, is a funerary ritual involving a particularbone from the spine of a bear.

The reading is phenomenally symmetrical. At the center stands the Hound. His body faces right, the direction of new experience, but he looks backward, towards the Gold Ring, symbol of the commitments the woman made in life. It’s as if the Hound is saying “When you’re ready, I’m here for you. I can guide you and guard you when you face the Bear.” The particular dog in the card is an Irish Wolfhound. The woman is Irish-American, with deep roots in Ireland, both through family and through love of the culture.

The symmetry becomes strongest when we move outward another step from the center to encounter cards Two and Six, the Dead Tree and the Flaming Tree. The death of the body and the life of the soul.

A Seven Card Reading About Death Ill 2

At the beginning of this whole section on readings, I noted the suggestion of Donnaleigh de la Rose that we should decide between alternative readings for any particular card so we will know what it means when it appears. I also mentioned Caitlin Matthews’s suggestion that we allow each card to speak to us on its own. For some, the traditional card of the Tree means health problems. For me, however, this card speaks of life and good health, a good omen in most readings (unless the cards around it show problems or danger). In this reading it seems to suggest the promise of an afterlife or a new life that is meaningful and that flourishes.

Finally, at the opposite ends of the reading, cards 1 and 7, we find the Voyage, the soul’s journey, and Hermes the Messenger, the soul’s guide. In the center the Hound looks back to the life that was lived. Hermes looks ahead, to the mystery of what will come next.

This reading is an example, not just of how we can answer spiritual questions, but also the value of such qualities as symmetry, beauty, and rhythm when we interpret the cards. What it does not do is interpret them in a freeform, purely intuitive style. All the meanings given for the individual cards in the reading derive from those given in the text. In fact, apart from the Gold Ring and the Bear, each of the cards in the reading was cited in the text for the Dead Tree.



This is a picture of a Grand Tableau reading, using the entire deck.  Burning Serpent belongs to the tradition known as Lenormand, named for the most famous card reader of 19th century Europe, and in that tradition we read the cards by laying all of them out and seeing what patterns reveal themselves when we see where various cards have fallen.  The reading was done for a man and traditionally the first thing we would do is look for the card titled “The Man,” card 28, and see what cards are directly around it, then look to see where “The Woman,” card 29, turns up.  In this deck, however,we wanted to make it accessible for gay and lesbian subjects, so Robert created an alternative card 29–a second Man–and alternative 28–a second Woman.  The reading above was indeed for a gay man, thus we have both Man cards.

Lenormand readers will also note that the bottom line of the pattern has six cards rather than the traditional four.  This is because Robert created two extra cards, 37 and 38, Osiris and Isis.  They, too, are variants of the Man and Woman.  They represent people’s higher, or best selves.  

The Letter by Rachel Pollack

Recently I did a reading where the Letter card came up in a way that was both perfect for the subject and an interesting example of how the general meaning can become something specific.  First, here’s the text for The Letter just as it will appear in the book:

72-Letter Black and White


            Correspondence, including email.  Important news,  for good or bad.  Documents,                including contracts.

The Letter is one of the simpler and more literal cards to interpret.  Its primary meaning is news, information, which in the early 19th century came primarily by letter.  The most obvious modern correlation is email, though outside the workplace email has been largely replaced (as of this writing) by messages sent via Facebook and other social networking site.  We should realize that card 27 implies messages of some length or significance.  Twitter “tweets” and simple “Likes” go more with card 12, The Owl And Mouse (“Birds” or “The Owl” in most traditional decks).  The Letter brings news of importance.

The fact of a letter is neutral, only the content matters.  Therefore, the card by itself is neither lucky or unlucky, but depends on the cards around it.  In the oldest interpretations it was considered positive unless the Clouds lurked nearby.  Today, there are a range of possibilities.  With the Fox we might be careful not to take the communication at face value.  With the Heart, however, we could expect a literal love letter—unless the Scythe is also present, in which case the communication could be what used to be called a “Dear John” letter, breaking off a relationship.  The Letter and the Gold Ring suggests a commitment of some kind.  We might think of marriage, but a business agreement is also possible.  Letter + Gold Ring + Fish would indicate a lucrative contract.

By extension from the basic image the Letter can mean any kind of document, such as contracts, other legal papers, notices, exams, medical reports, tax returns, and so on.  Again, other cards would suggest the direction.

In the time when Lenormand was taking shape letters were virtually the only means by which people communicated over distance.  The telegram was just getting started, but people mostly preferred the slow and careful process of hand-written letters.  This may seem quaint in a time when even birthday cards are sent electronically.  As someone who actually writes long letters by hand, I’m sometimes amused by articles about “the death of handwriting” that assure readers that “no one” writes letters.  For some card readers it might require an effort to see this card for its vital place in people’s lives.  Because writing a letter is a deliberative process compared to email, card 27 can invoke any communication that is careful, serious, and of some consequence.

Most traditional decks portray the Letter as unopened.  We see it sealed with wax, lying on a table, or sometimes a silver tray, an example of that wealthy setting found throughout most Lenormand decks.  The card carries the quality of expectation.  Some document or news is coming, we do not know yet what it will say, only that it matters.

The word “letter’ also means the alphabet, what makes written communication possible.  Card 27 does not contain an image as basic as, say, House, Tree, Sun, Man or Woman.  And yet it stands for something almost as fundamental—our ability to communicate meaningfully over distance and time.  Spoken language is subject to confusion and misunderstandings.  It also vanishes the moment it comes from someone’s mouth, surviving only in the memories of whoever is present.  Something written may remain long after the people involved have died.  We know this about books, of course, and treaties, and historical records.  But letters remain as well.

Shortly before writing this—a letter to you, the reader—I saw a play about Lorena Hickok, Eleanor Roosevelt’s lover and lifelong friend.  The entire play was built around more than 2200 letters the two women wrote to each other over many years.  The historian who first discovered this correspondence found it disturbing, and even suggested to the Roosevelt Library that they destroy the letters.  Absolutely not, the Library told her.  The letters were part of history.

The earliest form of air mail was carrier pigeon.  Of course, they did not actually hold complete letters in their beaks.  The image gives this card a whimsical quality, somehow appropriate to the old-fashioned quality a letter evokes.

The address sets the picture in its time.  The card shows an actual envelope from the 19th century, addressed to A.—Abraham—Stoker, better known to us as Bram Stoker, author of Dracula.  In his lifetime, Stoker was known primarily for his work in theater, and was on tour in the United States at the time this letter was sent.

Stoker is a fitting subject for this card.  His great novel, the fountain for all vampire books and movies that have followed, is also the most famous “epistolary” novel, a book that consists entirely of letters, diary entries, ships’ log, and newspaper articles.  It reminds us of written communication, written records, on every page.

Birds appear with some frequency in the Burning Serpent Oracle.  Beside the Letter, we have, of course, the Owl and the Mouse and the Stork, but also the Garden, and Isis’s vulture headdress on the extra card, 38.  Birds signify beauty but also messages, like letters.  This is because birds, with their high flight and their beautiful songs, are said to communicate with the gods.  In Genesis, a dove (a kind of pigeon) brings Noah an olive branch, a demonstration that land has once again emerged from the waters of the Flood.

Birds are divinatory animals.  Interpreting their flight patterns may be the oldest divinatory system in the world.  The tracks birds make may have inspired the invention of writing—of letters.

Card 26, the Book of Life, contains secrets, the book of our destiny, what is written.  The news and messages signified by the Letter might be the reading itself, the “news” of our fate.  And isn’t it interesting that we use the same word for what we do with the cards as what we do with a letter.  We read them.

72-Bird Black and White


The reading was for someone working very hard in a creative writing program.  She had a book in progress but felt she was struggling, both to get it right, and within the structure of the program.  The Letter came up as the center card in a line of seven.  The first thing that struck me was that one of the ways the modern meanings have developed is that the card can signify any written document (including email).  So, not just a letter, but also contracts, wills, data from experiments…and a manuscript.  This placed the work itself at the center of the reading–not the courses, or the people, or her beliefs, but the actual text.  And then I realized that the reason it was card 27, the Letter, and not card 26, the Book of Life, was because it was still in progress, still a document rather than a finished work.

72dpi-Book and Letter


Here is an article by Mary Greer about her recent discovery of a predecessor for the Lenornand cards. Rachel covers this deck along with the history of the Lenormand deck in our companion book, The Burning Serpent Oracle. Rachel is just finishing the book and I have been doing the layout and editing as she is writing. It should be available with the deck soon.

About the Burning Serpent Oracle

The Burning Serpent Oracle is the Creation of Rachel Pollack and Robert M Place. It is an oracle deck based on the 19th century Lenormand oracle but with a deeper spiritual dimension. It can be used like a traditional Lenormand deck and also allows for personal visionary interpretations.  The deck, designed by Robert M Place, and accompanying book, authored by Rachel Pollack, are in the process of being printed and will be available soon.


Coming Soon The Burning Serpent Oracle

The Burning Serpent Oracle is the Creation of Rachel Pollack and Robert M Place. It is an oracle deck based on the 19th century Lenormand oracle but with a deeper spiritual dimension. It can be used like a traditional Lenormand deck and also allows for personal visionary interpretations.  The deck, designed by Robert M Place, and accompanying book, authored by Rachel Pollack, are in the process of being printed and will be available soon.