Heavenly Bodies Astrology: Deck and Little Guidebook, by Lily Ashwell
CICO Books, 1782499312, 51 cards, 144 pages, February 2021
I have been reading different decks for almost 30 years (I started young!). But when Heavenly Bodies Astrology by Lily Ashwell arrived, I got chills. The presentation of this boxset is unlike any I’ve ever seen. The deck and guidebook came in a gorgeous keepsake box, which really made for a memorable deck unveiling. As I opened the inner cover of the box, I was greeted with a quote by Henry David Thoreau that instantly made me marvel at the idea that heaven is ever-present . Illustrated in tones of pinks and grays, lace, and a full moon, the deck mesmerized me from the get-go. It even has a gold ribbon that can be used to gently remove the deck from the box with grace and ease!
The intricate beauty put into the presentation of the deck and “little guidebook” conveyed to me that just as much care and love was put into the design of this deck. The smaller box within the keepsake box holds the deck, which also has a ribbon to be used to remove it from its holder. The back of the deck’s box has a quote by Rainer Maria Rilke, one of my favorite poets, while the inner lid of the deck’s box has a quote by William Blake. In her Introduction, Lily describes the importance of this quote in her journey, which brought the box to life.
I normally don’t gush over presentations and artwork, but this deck is truly a magnificent work of art. The contents of this box set are appropriately referred to as “treasures” on the box sleeve. I actually sat with these three pieces laid out on the table in front of me to soak in the craftsmanship that went into their creation. I felt as if someone had shared treasure with me, and I relished opening the book to read its content and then opening the deck to hold the cards as I would a new baby. These feelings were confirmed when I read Lily’s description in the book’s Introduction:
“This deck and guidebook did not begin as something to be shared, let alone published, but as my own study tool, to deepen my understanding of the cosmos.” 1
Bingo – the box and its contents felt like I had come upon someone’s preciously stored items and private writings, something very personal written from the heart and soul. Ashwell is both author and illustrator of the cards and book. Her training at London’s Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design (inner back of book) is vividly demonstrated in the design of the cards, which combine symbolism and astrology to create meaningful works art on each card.
Lily recommends using the cards to learn astrology, decode planetary placements in one’s birth chart, and/or communicate with the angels. As she explains in the guidebook, “understanding the deck requires a general understanding of astrology.”2 She proceeds to give a brief introduction to items such as the planets, zodiac, houses, and major aspects.
As someone who becomes quickly lost when astrological discussions move beyond Sun signs, I appreciated how Lily builds upon concept upon concept to help me begin to better understand the workings of astrology. She began with using the card Jupiter, and then illustrated what Jupiter in Aries meant, and then what Jupiter in Aries in the 7th House meant. This introduction made me feel a bit less intimated to begin working with the cards. I say “a little” because I admit to my head spinning when I got into Nodes, Trine, and Sextile! However, the guidebook generously helped me to navigate the unknown and still find the answers I was seeking.
I was glad to read in the guidebook that she understood that one could become overwhelmed when first beginning to work with the cards, especially if one has a very limited understanding of astrology. I very much appreciated her writing, “That’s okay and totally normal – I felt that way too. Just remember, you don’t need to grasp how everything pieces together right away. This is the journey.”3
Lily remembers her own introduction to astrology and chose to make this deck usable and not intimidating.
“When I began my journey with the cosmos, I felt thirsty for information, but bored and uninspired by the textbook-ish materials available. It’s why I made this little guidebook simple and the cards beautiful. They provide you with enough information to explore the subject but not enough to trigger overwhelm.”4
This reassured me that I didn’t need to be an astrology expert to use the deck; I could use the deck to familiarize myself with astrology, while also enjoying the stunning visuals that help me to learn about the different energies described.
The cards themselves are absolutely beautiful. Each card offers keywords and an “omen,” or the card’s overriding message. There are six categories of cards: the Planets, the Signs of the Zodiac, the Houses, the Major Aspects, the Natural Zodiac, and the Nodes of Destiny. They are have gentle, dreamlike colored tones that make you sink into your imagination when looking at them. The flowing design of the cards seems to make it easier to access my own inner knowing and also receive the card’s message on a soul level.
All the cards are filled with symbolic imagery, helping the reader to access the energy of the astrology viscerally, rather than just through the mind. The Earth card, for example, has four roses in various stages of blooming. There is a heart in the middle of the card, one side of the heart is a cage of bones while the other side is an intact red heart. The keywords are persistence, patience, and practicality. Then, Mercury has a butterfly set against the planet with a watercolor background of what reminds me of waterlilies. Venus’s card has a pale pink background, with an open clamshell displaying a white pearl, set against the planet itself.
My favorite illustrations are found on the House cards, which are bird-themed. The House Four card has a nest containing two eggs, set in a tree, against a full moon in a blue-black sky. The key words are cultural and family roots, home, peace, and comfort. Looking at this card makes me feel that sense of calmness, connectedness, and grounding associated with domestic life (which I also learned is it’s energy in astrology!)
I decided to work with the cards as Lily suggests, get to know them, try various spreads, allow them to speak to me, and to not get hung up with astrological terms. And guess what? I love, love, love working with them! I value Lily’s advice about asking questions of the cards by framing it as “what is…” versus yes or no questions. For example, “What is the best way to approach a job change?” instead of “Should I apply for job A next week?” This method helped me to open up to receive intuitive messages, deepening my capacity for communion with the cards.
In the guidebook, Liluyoffers three card spreads; a one card of the day, a three-card soul spread, and a four-card third eye spread. My favorite spread with this deck was the three-card soul spread, cards that revealed what one is learning, how one is learning it, and where the wisdom will take one.5 Without revealing my own card pulls, I will say that the way these cards communicated with me enabled me to drop my resistance to diving deeper into astrology and working with concepts other than my Sun sign.
I did the one card pulls for a few days. I sat with the selected card each day, reading the guidebook’s description and letting it marinate. I liked to pick my card early in the morning and sit with it all day – throughout my daily activities. Sometimes it resonated very quickly. Other times, it slowly revealed its meaning to me.
Three days in a row, I have pulled the card Yin! So, I’ve been trying to incorporate a slower pace in life. The Yin card is part of the Natural Zodiac in the Little Guidebook, along with Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Yang, Cardinal, Fixed, and Mutable. In addition to the keywords listed on the card itself, the guidebook also lists the “omen” for each card as described earlier as well as a description of the energy of the card itself. For example, for the Yin card, Lily writes about the “energy of the Divine Feminine.”
The guidebook is easy to read and even includes blank pages at the end for note-taking, which offers the opportunity for me to personalize my deck with my thoughts and discoveries. I responded to Lily’s description of the energy of each card and found great insight in each card’s “omens.” I used the omen of a card to guide me, inspire me, and give me pause in my response to some of the questions posed. All food for thought – or rather, for the soul to digest. I look forward to continuing taking it slow with the cards, allowing our relationship to develop, and learning more about the energy of astrology through the cards.
My next step using the cards is going to be laying them out to create different planet placements in my chart. I hope to gain insight from the visual representation of the energy of my personal astrological make-up, such as Moon in Aries in the first house and Mars in Taurus in the third house. I believe the keywords on the cards will help me to better understand these aspects in my chart, further deepening my astrological understanding.
All in all, Heavenly Bodies Astrology is a true gift in its beauty and its message. Lily’s honesty in describing her journey using astrology, her sharing of her artwork on the cards and in the little guidebook, and her gentle taking of the reader’s hand to encourage us to “find out own direct connection to the heavens,”6 makes for a very personalized feeling in this deck. The supreme elegance of the symbolic representation of the cosmos creates the feeling of sublime connection to the heavens. I highly recommend that you bring this treasure into your life. Whether you’re a novice or expert astrologer, you’ll feel there’s an exalted mysticism within these cards. As Ashwell writes, if this deck resonates with you, trust that you were brought to it for a reason.
Anne Greco is a non-fiction writer who writes about her life experiences and travels with humor, keen observations, and the hope that her words will remind us that “we’re all just walking each other home.” Her book, Serendipity: Chance Pilgrimages, tells the story of Anne encountering her places of power. As she reconnects with herself at each site, Anne also develops a deeper understanding and appreciation of her connection to both the seen and unseen worlds. Learn more about her work here: http://annegrecowriter.com.