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Tarot Reflections

 March 1, 2004

Review: The Nahualli Animal Oracle
Sheila Hall, CTM

Sheila Hall has been studying the Tarot for 16 years. She recently received her CTM certification and is currently working towards her CTI. Sheila is an ATA mentor, has been a reader on both the Free Tarot and Free Reading Networks, and also serves on the ATA Education Committee. She lives in Tennessee with her husband and two sons.


By Caelum Rainieri and Ivory Anderson
Illustrated by Raphael Montoliu
ISBN: 159143017-8

The Nahualli Animal Oracle provides us with an interesting means to discover our animal double.   "Nahualli is the Aztec word for shadow soul," which is the animal double of the human soul. An excerpt from the book states: "The Aztecs viewed animals as "sacred beings who shared the Earth with gods long before humans were created." They believed that the gods, both animal and anthropomorphic, created human beings through the spilling of their own blood. By reciprocation, humans gave their own blood to the gods at the sacrificial alter. This was a natural philosophy to them - a way of life.

The fourth day, after the birth of a child, was a day in which a ceremony would take place with a priest to announce the relationship of the child and their nahualli, or their animal double. The nahualli is determined by a persons birth date and time. This ceremony was the first ritual in the child's life, and was basically the consecration of an agreement between the infant and their animal that would last a lifetime. The relationship provided direction for the child and their personal development. The nahualli taught the child skills and guided them into developing their natural abilities. As the child grew, they were obligated to protect the animal. Any violation of this agreement brought serious consequences.

The Nahualli Animal Oracle consists of 40 cards and they have been designed as a means for seekers to connect with their animal double. The images are vibrantly colored, and each card portrays primitive Aztec artwork. The cards seem thin, yet sturdy, and they shuffle easy. They are a bit wider than cards of traditional Tarot decks. I love the colorful design on the backs of the cards.

The oracle provides a way of discovering your nahualli, developing a relationship, and communicating with this animal double, or shadow soul. Other cultures may refer to them as birth totems. Depending on the system you use, you can discover your totem using your birth date and time. What makes this system different for discovering nahualli? It incorporates the Aztec beliefs, including numerology, religious symbolism, and mythology, whereas other, more common systems tend to incorporate Native American beliefs.

In the epilogue of the accompanying book, we are reminded of how we can learn so much from nahuallis or animal guides. "Ethnologists observe the behavior of animals in the wild and document their moral codes, their unconditional love, their acts of sacrifice for their families, and their grief at the loss of a mate." How many people have even stopped to consider the thoughts and feelings of animals, or whether they have a code they live by? Why? Because we're “only” dealing with animals? Evidently, they have a lot in common with us - more than most people realize. But then I do see people who really love and connect with their pets. I say this now as I look out my French doors to a sidewalk where a neighbor is walking her dog in the rain. The dog is wearing a tiny yellow raincoat!

The companion book is more than your average little white book that accompanies most decks and oracles. It is 183 pages long and very informative. The beginning of the book introduces us to the Aztecs and their beliefs, which helps us understand the origins of the oracle and the sacredness with which Aztecs felt for animals. The book includes charts for pronunciation of names of deities and keywords for the cards, as well as a chart for determining your own nahualli. We learn about the nahualli as a protector, ally, teacher, advocate, and inner spirit guide.

The book covers each card and includes a black and white illustration for each card. The first section, following the keywords, offers a profile of the animal where you learn about the animal's significance in Aztec religion, folklore, and history. The
second section explores the meaning and energy of the card, and the third section provides you with the contrary or negative energies of the card.

You then move on to one of the last parts of the book, which discusses how to use the oracle. Purifying and consecrating the oracle, how to cleanse and center yourself, a prayer to the ancient gods, and asking questions are all included in this section. The book includes seven spreads. You are encouraged to work with the first two spreads before attempting to work with the successive spreads. Perhaps because this allows you to learn more about how the oracle works before moving on? Or maybe it allows you time to really connect with the oracle before taking any further steps?

The last section is entitled "The Pact," which is an agreement between each person and their nahualli. The agreement is one that I wrote of earlier in this review where the individual learns from the animal's knowledge, skill, and is protected. The individual, in turn, agrees to not hunt the animal and to protect the species as much as possible. A list of ways to help in fulfilling our portion of the agreement is provided for us.

The Nahualli Animal Oracle comes as a boxed set. The box is sturdy, and colorfully illustrated. It has an inner box that slides out, and reveals where the cards are placed in a sunken space for them, and the book rests on top of the cards.

The Nahualli Animal Oracle provides us with a unique way to connect with, learn about, and learn from our nahualli, or animal doubles, as seen via the Aztec wisdom tradition. I've enjoyed learning about the Aztec's and their beliefs, and discovering my nahualli with this oracle!

The Nahualli Animal Oracle is available through Inner Traditions at


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