The Oracle of the Radiant Sun is a fabulous deck of 84 cards. It is not a Tarot deck, but is based upon Astrology, and as such, it is one of the more unusual and in depth oracles that I have seen.
The deck is broken down into 7 suits of 12 cards, each one based upon a planetary influence as follows: The Sun (suit of fortune), The Moon (suit of security), Mercury (suit of change), Venus (suit of love), Mars (suit of action), Jupiter (suit of gain) and Saturn (suit of ambition).
Each of these suits is colour coded, but the nature of the suit it belongs to is also shown in the layout of the card - for example, all the Sun cards show a main picture in the bottom two thirds of the card, with another image in the top third of the card within a sort of crescent (rising sun) shaped space. Likewise, the Jupiter cards are all designed with a diamond shape on the card with the picture within this - as Jupiter is the suit of Gain, having a diamond (which corresponds to the suit of Diamonds in playing cards, which also relates to the suit of Pentacles in the Tarot i.e the suit of material things) I thought was a very nice touch as not only does it help you to easily identify which suit the card belongs to, but a lot of thought has gone into the symbolism behind the cards.
As well as belonging to a planetary suit, each card within that suit cycles through the twelve signs of the zodiac. The glyph for the planet is shown on the bottom left of each card, and the sign of the zodiac each particular card relates to is shown in the bottom right hand corner of the card. Nice and easy to reference the pictures on the cards to the symbols and energies that each card represents. On each card there is also a keyword to it's meaning, which is derived from a combination of the suit and the sign of the zodiac that the card shows. For example, in the suit of Mercury (deck of change) the Leo card has a keyword of "drama" indicating that Mercury combining with the strength and fire of the lion is conceptualised as resulting in drama, or dramatic change. Likewise, the card for Virgo in the Mercury suit indicates "caution" as its key theme. Another couple of examples from different suits is that of Taurus in the suit of Mars (action) - whose keyword is "defence". The card depicts knights on horseback as well as coins and swords, indicating the defence of material things (as Taurus is an earth sign). The card for Venus in Aquarius describes "detachment" (the cool Aquarian trait) showing a head floating in water with a boat far behind it in the background - as Venus is the suit of love, then this would indicate a person or feeling of cool emotional detachment.
In this way, the whole deck of cards is very well thought out, offering a huge scope for readings. The artwork on the cards is quite engaging, in a sort of "olde english" style, yet incorporates imagery as diverse as egyptian mummies to mermaids and domestic scenes. The cards themselves are small and neat, are easy to shuffle and fit nicely into even the smallest of palms. However they are not so small that they become unclear, as the text and images on them are clear and crisp. The book that accompanies the set is informative and gives good comprehensive coverage both of the basics behind the structure of the deck and the individual cards.
However, I must finally come onto the one flaw mentioned in the title of my review. It is not a problem with the actual cards themselves, or with the structure or divinatory system of the deck, but with the packaging/presentation of the deck and book together as a product. This may be seen as a minor flaw by some, or a major one by others so I feel that it should be mentioned.
The problem is that the design of the package is either trying to be too clever, or has just been very poorly thought out (I would like to try and give it the benefit of the doubt and say the former seeings as SO much thought has gone into the cards and book themselves), however I find that for me, the packaging just does not work.
This is because the "box" is not actually a box, but more of a flap into which the cards fit (in two piles), which then folds over to join up with the rest of the "box" which is actually the book itself! If that sounds unclear, let me clarify by saying that the back cover of the book is joined to the rest of the box/flap and in fact the card housing is a rather clumsy attachment to the book!
There are three problems with this, if you wish to keep the product nice and use it "as is". Once you have removed the cellophane, the "box" then does not close again as there is nothing to secure it shut. Secondly, once you have again removed the cellophane from the two piles of cards inside... they will no longer stay in their "slots" neatly without shooting everywhere when you then try and close the "box" (which doesn't close anyway, as previously mentioned!). Finally, the book is nigh on impossible to read sensibly whilst attached to the rest of the flap/cards paraphernalia, thus rendered it extremely frustrating to try and use without either becoming a contortionist or having to somehow keep the rest of the flap out of the way while you are trying to concentrate on what you are reading. I have to say neither option is very conducive to a smooth reading session, especially when you are first trying to learn the suits and the meanings of the cards!
Of course, the obvious and most satisfying solution to this little problem is to simply take the initiative to separate the book from the rest of the package, cutting along the edge of where the book cover `ends' and then ditching the rest of the packaging and keeping the cards in a nice drawstring tarot pouch instead! This is quite easy to do (and perhaps that is what one is meant to do once you have undone it, I have no idea?) so on the one hand, this problem can be quite easily overcome, but I personally did find it rather a let down (it's just unnecessary to attach the book to the box!) especially as the rest of the design, ideas and functioning of the set is immaculate and faultless. It is for this reason, that as a rating for the product as a whole (instead of just the cards alone or the accompanying book) I have given this 4 stars and not 5, but that is the only reason it has received less, for if as much thought had been put into the final presentation and practicality of use of the product as the actual meanings of the oracle itself then it is easily a five-star product!
Overall, packaging aside, this deck is a fantastic divinatory tool and a stunning variation from more traditional decks. A must for both Astrology and Tarot fans!!!