Deborah Koff-Chapin introduces her deck of Faces drawn from the Subtle Realms
We ingest images through our eyes. They enter the body and psyche directly, prior to reflection by the verbal mind. In these times, we are overrun with images as we scroll social media. We are unable to fully digest this intense visual stimulation. Card decks provide a space to slow down and integrate a visual experience. When holding a deck in our hands, we enter an intimate, visceral relationship. We touch, see, and allow the images to seep deeply into our psyche. When used over time, a deck creates a field for communion with the wisdom of the soul.
I have the deepest respect for the ancient symbolic language embodied in Tarot. There is also a place for emergent images in deck form. I did not set out to become a deck creator. But this format has become a sacred vessel for my art. I published SoulCards in 1995. The images were selected from thousands I had created over the years in my creative practice. SoulCards do not have written meanings or titles. The user is guided to engage with the images directly, allowing their own associations to arise. This supports the cultivation of trust in one’s own perceptions, insights and creativity. They were embraced at the time and have continued to expand their reach as a new generation discovers them.
In the twenty years since releasing SoulCards 2, I have taken my drawing materials around the world and found inspiration in sacred sites, natural environments, and with inspiring wisdom teachers. My medium is Touch Drawing. I roll a thin layer of oil paint onto a smooth surface and lay a sheet of paper upon it. The pressure of my fingertips on the paper leaves marks on the underside. The setting in which I am creating carries a presence that informs my image making. When drawing a face, it is as if the face of another is impressing itself into my own. I move my fingers on the paper in response. It feels like I am translating elemental forces, nature spirits, wisdom beings and subtle allies into a form that is most familiar to us as humans.
From the moment we are born, we center our world on faces. Can we use this primal visual language to open portals of communion between our psyche and consciousness beyond our familiar human world? Portals of Presence: Faces Drawn from the Subtle Realms is a new deck consisting of 72 faces offered for this use. There is a mystery that fuels this deck; a sense that unseen beings want to engage with it as a point of contact with our human-centric world. In this time of accelerating challenge on the planet, the possibility of expanding our range of relationship offers hope that we do not have to face our challenges alone. Rather, we are in this predicament because we have lost our sense of communion with life.
The Portals of Presence deck may present a challenge to readers of Tarot or oracles. Most decks consist of images that illustrate a condition, express an action, contain archetypes, or visual symbols that have a verbal counterpart. The Portals of Presence are simply faces being present. This can lead one to wonder what to do with them. There is great value in simply being with them. Mystic philosopher David Spangler confirms this:
“The illustrations of these cards are more than just pictures; they are projections of the energy of a living presence passed through the lens of a shared imaginal realm. When we meditate upon these images, we are drawn into that realm as well. We may find within ourselves a resonance that is much more than a simple communication but is a felt sense of partnership as fellow sacred lives. Portals of Presence offers a direct way of using the imaginal field to contact the energy fields of subtle beings. What these cards are saying in a variety of ways is “Here we are! Can you feel us? Does it awaken in you our shared kinship in the life of the world?
Does it awaken the subtle dimension of your being that can match our own? In this deck you will find a portal of presence that, when understood and internalized, can open to those subtle colleagues with whom you would wish to partner in a sacred alliance of mutual empowerment.”
Caitlin Matthews, author of over 70 books on Celtic wisdom, western mysteries and cartomancy, shares her experience:
“Some come from the edge of being different from humans, although many could be ancestral teachers or faeries. Wise, friendly, inscrutable, considering, penetrating or ecstatic, each face looks out full-face at you. At first, I had to moderate my response, as there were too many faces to consider. On a second visit, I selected a random few and realized that the faces are primed to speak or converse…I could see that a ritual presence was gathering.”
Caitlin and David affirm my sense that there are beings associated with the deck, waiting for us to meet them at the Portal.
Beyond this core use of the deck, how can people who engage with Tarot or other oracles use them? John Benson, founder of Soulology, offers his sense of the deck and how it compares and contrasts with Tarot:
“Portals of Presence is an accurate description of the cards. They truly create connections between conscious realms. Like Tarot, they are a medium for communication. Unlike Tarot, they are not created for divination. You can ask questions of both, but the answers are delivered differently. In Tarot, the communication happens through spreads and the assigned meanings of the cards that present themselves. A user reads the cards like you would a sentence or paragraph. With the Beings inhabiting the Portals of Presence, the communication is direct. Pose a question and receive an answer. The questions posed to both Tarot and the Beings may be the same, but the Beings might ask questions of you as well.
With the Portals of Presence, you do not need to ask anything at all. You can simply be with them; share space and time. That might sound silly until you try it. Gaze upon their face and be present to them and you will feel their presence with you. As a reader, you can pull a card like you might an Oracle card and ask your client what the drawn presence has to say them. Or you can ask what further information does the client need today? Or you can ask the client to go through the Portals and choose the one that speaks to them. Then ask the client what they think the Being is trying to communicate to them.”
Jan Wallace has been a tarot reader for four decades, continuing a gift from her maternal line. She shares how the Portals can enrich a tarot reading.:
“The Portals offer a kind of rhythmic contrast to the Tarot — so where the Tarot has the major and minor arcana and particular layouts or spreads, the Portals can bring in another Voice that is not tied to any system. So, there is the Reader, there is the Reader’s Guide or Guides, there is the Portal, and there are the cards in the layout. I did a reading for a friend. I drew three Portal cards but one spoke. This card announced itself as being of the water element, of cleansing. Interestingly, the tarot cards I had drawn were mostly cups. It felt as if the Portal card was the voice of the Elder offering the wisdom of the healing of cleansing. The client found this highly helpful. I would not have channeled this information without this image/visage, so I feel this Portal card added depth to the reading. I will continue to bring a Portal card into my readings going forward. They definitely carry their own wisdom, which reflects back in on the tarot cards and illuminates them — making the reading bigger and deeper.”
Lani Cartright is co-creator of the Wisdom of the Crone deck. She works with multiple oracle decks:
“Portals of Presence creates a beautiful foundation for my card readings. I draw from 5 decks right now. The first card that I pull is from Portals of Presence. I often see someone or feel something that resonates deep within, a spirit that guides me in such a beautiful way. It seems to guide the rest of the cards I draw. The synchronicity within all the cards is magical.”
This deck is my offering to the world as conditions intensify. I close with the words of Orion Foxwood, Founder of the House of Brigh Faery Seership Institute:
“This deck has sacred assignments. It is an instrument of attunement that bridges us to relationship and co-creation with the most intimate forces in life. Let these cards open the portals to miracles yet unknown, wisdom yet to ripen and answers waiting for you to seek them.”