Book Review – The Hawaiian Oracle

July 19, 2009 by  
Filed under books, cards, divination, other cards, reviews

Book Review - The Hawaiian Oracle


The Hawaiian Oracle: Animal Spirit Guides from the Land of Light
Rima A. Morrell; art by Steve Rawlings
New World Library (April 13, 2006)
ISBN: 978-1577315261
144 pages plus 36 cards
Reviewer: Lupa
Full starFull starNo starNo starNo star

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a totem deck/book set. I’ve had this one sitting in my personal collection for a while, and figured it was about time to take a break from my review stacks. I also wanted to give myself a fresh look at it, because someone I respect as a totemist gave it a pretty scathing review last year, and I didn’t want that biasing my approach.
There’s good and bad in the set, so I’ll give you some details in list form:

The Good:

  • The author emphasizes interconnection and responsibility to nature in the book. There are some valuable lessons for postindustrial cultures that often take the environment and its denizens (includes humans!) for granted. It’s obvious that she’s passionate about being a caretaker, and while she doesn’t include it quite to the extent that, say, Susie Green does in the Animal Messages deck, it was a nice touch. (In addition, she walks the talk, having set up a charity and refuge for rescued animals of various sorts, for which I give her major kudos.)
  • Morrell has a Ph.D. in Huna, a New Age mix of Hawaiian mythology and other elements. She’s pretty familiar with Hawaiian mythos, and includes mythological information on each of the animals along with her interpretations, to flesh out the meanings and give people more to ponder when working with each animal.
  • The cards themselves feature some of the most beautiful artwork by Steve Rawlings (who sadly only gets mentioned on the copyright page and the acknowledgment in the back of the book, instead of on the cover of the book or box). A lovely blend of realistic depictions of animals and brightly colored environments, the pictures make working with this deck extra delightful!

The Bad:

  • One of the first things that stuck out was the author’s dogmatic adherence to vegetarianism even in the face of historical facts. I’ve no problem with vegetarianism in and of itself; however, Polynesian cultures are not and never have been vegetarian, and they did not simply begin eating meat because of contact with the Europeans. Yet she asserts this very idea on the first two pages (6-7) of the introduction.
  • Lemuria and Atlantis: Arrrrrrgh. This is New Age stuff, pure and simple. Yet, like so many New Age authors, she tries to connect these fictional, completely unproven, conveniently lost continents to Hawaiian indigenous culture.
  • Related to my last point, her book is based on the aforementioned Huna — which is not traditional Hawaiian religion. It’s a creation from the latter half of the 19th century when spiritualism and other such things were all the rage, and while it (and this book) dabble in Hawaiian religious and cultural elements, they are not synonymous. The author (who as I mentioned has a Ph.D. in Huna gained from University College in London, U.K.) claims to have spoken to indigenous Hawaiian practitioners of this, but she doesn’t give any indication of what status they have in their indigenous culture(s) or where they learned their material. Given that even indigenous cultures can have their frauds (being indigenous in genetics does not automatically confer full understanding of indigenous culture if you are primarily white in culture), I have to question how verifiably indigenous her information really is. This looks more like cultural appropriation than indigenous Hawaiian religion and culture.
  • ”Land of Light”? This idealization of Hawaiian culture (and it’s definitely not limited to the subtitle) smacks of the Noble Savage stereotype.

Honestly, I’m leaning towards setting aside the book and keeping the cards. Unless you’re brand new to animal card divination and don’t yet feel you can interpret the cards based on your own observations (and the study of a species’ natural history, from whence its lore ultimately springs), it’s really not necessary. The information that is provided on cultural and other contexts is spotted with questionable content. Read through the book to get an idea of the author’s perspective and intent for creating the deck, but take it with a huge lick of salt.

Two pawprints out of five (though I give the art a five!)

Review ©2009 Lupa
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Lupa is the author of Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic, A Field Guide to Otherkin, and co-author of Kink Magic, among other works. You can read her blog at http://therioshamanism.com and see her website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com.

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Comments

2 Responses to “Book Review – The Hawaiian Oracle”

  1. Linda Ballou says:

    Your review is spot on! I took exception to the same issues you did. I emailed Dr. Morrel and she declined to respond about Lemuria and vegetarianism . I researched all of the earlest chronicles for my historical novel, Wai-nani, and nowhere is there no mention of either subjects. However, I still enjoy the cards and the discriptive language. I confess I can’t help pulling a card from the deck to see how my day will go..just for fun.
    Linda Ballou, author of Wai-nani, High Chiefess of Hawaii.

  2. Lupa says:

    Thanks for the confirmation that it’s not just me :)

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