There are sounds the Earth makes. The music of cracking ice, the roar of fires, even the hiss of the smoke disrupting our lungs. These songs are terrifying but also deeply enchanting. There is possibility and there is also loss. It is a constant song, named “Cantigee” by oracle writer/creator Rae Diamond. They explain Cantigee, a name they created, as deriving from “two roots: cantus, a word that could be translated as ‘song,’ ‘spell,’ or ‘enchantment,’ and –gee, a suffix that translates as ‘Earth.’ Thus, Cantigee is a song the Earth sings, a spell it weaves, an enchantment it emanates.”
The Cantigee Oracle: An Ecological Spiritual Guide and Creative Prompt Deck, written by Diamond, with art by Laura Zuspan, is a 52-card oracle deck and accompanying guidebook. It offers a deeply poetic and wise set of teachings to call the user back to self and back to the sound of the Earth.
The cards depict archetypes of the natural world and prayers for healing and relationship building between our many selves, one another, and the Earth. But these are not the archetypes you may expect—there is a poetic whimsy here that is the result of Diamond’s collaboration with Zuspan, creator of the acclaimed Luminous Void Tarot Deck.
“Cantigee began as a friendship woven, as all friendships are, by the unseen forces of resonance, attunement, and care,” Diamond writes in the guidebook, a work of art in itself. As different as they were from each other, the two found commonality in nature, Buddhism, “and that which is mysterious and unseen.” Over four years of collaborating, Diamond read Zuspan the story-poetry hybrids that would ultimately become deck archetypes, like “Dawn That Follows the Prolonged Night” and “The Self Seeing Eye.”
Soon, the two new friends were delighting in ideas; sharing stories, paintings, and concepts; and creating a deck they realized could be a method for healing and growth. It could be a creative source for artists and nature activists, a teacher autonomous from them but rooted in their longstanding studies of Buddhism, Taoism, Yoga, animism, the arts, and science.
The cards ascend and descend like the seasons of the year, with the summer solstice as the height of energy and the winter solstice as the point of lowest descent. This connection to the moon and seasons can be followed in a user’s personal interpretation of the cards from a more expansive perspective. The vernal equinox is a time of “emergence, of testing out your vision and strength,” while the weeks on either side of the winter solstice indicate “that activity is most effective on subtle and internal levels.”
There are no good or bad archetypes. “Things are simply unfolding.”
The spreads follow this same notion of change and unfolding. There are simple two-card spreads that look at ascending and descending energy; a six-card spread called “Tree” that looks at what is supporting, blooming, and growing; and, my favorite, “Skeleton,” which follows the spines of different animals. Here is where the deck requests and engages your own creativity and imagination. There are ways to approach the deck from a Buddhist or Taoist perspective, and another way that follows the phases of the moon.
The first time I finally pulled a card from the deck, I had just spent an hour watching a cereus flower, which blooms for one night, open. I was with someone who—after a long string of heartbreaks—I felt I could, maybe, love. We watched the stalk tremble, the petals quiver and dilate, the yellow stamens spill out. The smell of the flower was overpowering, even through an N95. She leaned over my lap and pulled her mask down to bring her nose to the flower. I’m an atheist who in that moment found myself praying. I had experienced a year of constant losses: multiple relationships, daily access to my kid, job and housing precarity, even a beloved dog that I had to re-home. What was gain in the face of inevitable loss? The words of the prayer were something more like please help me remember myself.
“You grow through your capacity to embody what you’ve learned. You’ve grown when the knowledge you’ve gained permeates beyond the layer of your rational mind and spreads into the layer of your attitude,” Diamond writes in the introduction to the guide, a necessary read. We are in a time of crisis—what the poet Ever Jones calls “death crowned.” The deck with all its beauty and wisdom won’t heal you. It demands that you participate in your own healing to transform your relationship to life, other people, and the Earth.
That night, while sitting next to this person I thought I could love, but wasn’t ready to, I pulled “A Swan in a Crowd of Crows” (8, ascending energy, midwinter). The card has a swan in the negative space of crows made from sweeping watercolor brushstrokes. The flower across the room, which had fully opened, was now beginning its slow closure.
“You find yourself flying through a dimming sky as the sun sinks low in the west. … You are a swan, traveling alone over miles of fields. … You alight by the water’s edge, amid the cacophonous commentary of crows roosting in the poplars beside the puddle. What appeared to be a peaceful sanctuary for a lone, weary traveler is in fact a bustling party of mischievous creatures. You and the crows observe each other. Nothing is spoken between you and the crows, but an acceptance is reached as you curiously consider their flitting, interdependent society and as they appreciate your quiet and unthreatening dignity. Your difference intrigues them and stimulates new ideas in their clever corvid minds. You benefit from their watchful ways, and all rest well through the night.”
The guidance suggests that rather than perceiving myself as separate from others, I could be aware of myself as a unique “facet of the greater oneness of all that is.” It is a reminder to honor the differences of those around you, to consider what another person can teach you “and how that might be just the medicine you need right now.” The card’s Ecological Connection asks that I focus my attention on an ecosystem and notice how an individual plant or animal is creating space for others to thrive.
“Mindfulness teaches us,” Diamond writes. “Care motivates us. Creativity is the source of innovation, and therefore of change.” For lasting change, we must work from the ground up.
“The Calving Glacier” (41, descending energy 7 to 9 days after the full moon) depicts a glacier disintegrating, a chunk of the massive form snapping into the sea. Yes, this is human caused and could have been avoided, and there is another truth: All things that come into being will change, will end.
Diamond, who is also a qi gong practitioner and teacher, writes, “In Taoist theory, yin and yang are opposites that interact and dance with each other. … One could say that modern culture, with its short attention span and high level of activity and change, is more yang than yin. … There is simply not enough yin in the world to support [the iceberg’s] presence.”
The deck is not radicalizing in the sense of shifting someone who tsks about melting ice caps into an activist who is willing to face jail time for turning off a pipeline. At the same time, the book and the deck don’t absolve us from inaction. Through the deck’s teaching, when you do shut down the pipeline, you are more embodied and nourished for the relationships required for revolution, which also means being prepared for failure and death.
The deck offers you a step in your own healing. You may consider yourself an excellent activist, but how attuned are you to being accountable to the people you harm, at examining your own biases, at grieving or forgiving or letting go the way the Earth and plants let go and emerge every year?
A week after the flower bloomed and died, I sit alone watching the sunset as two herons ascend from water to sky and a bat drunkenly flutters close to my head. It is late summer, descending energy, five days after the new moon. There is one person on my mind. No matter what, everything will end one day. I could co-create something unique and organic, even in the face of that truth. There would be gain and there would be loss.
“I wonder if something slow and intentional with me is interesting to you, like it is to me with you?” I click “send” in the dimming light.
“Oh, thank god,” she replies.
Corinne Manning is the author of the acclaimed story collection We Had No Rules and a teaching artist based in Seattle, WA.