Oracle Cards for Spiritual Development
In times of old, an Oracle was a priest or priestess through which the Divine would speak, bringing prophecies and messages to royalty and lay-folk alike. Whether they looked for signs in cast bones or charms, or looked to nature, the sky, the sun or the moon, trying to make sense of the world is a part of the human condition. People have been seeking the wisdom of the Gods since time immemorial and probably always will.
Like many aspects of this modern age, the model for the dissemination of knowledge and wisdom has changed. No longer is the power held by one and handed down to the many, but ordinary people now have the ability and wherewithal to access this information for themselves.
Most people have heard of Tarot cards and know a vague something about their use for divination; others may have heard the word cartomancy or may even have studied the art of fortune telling using cards themselves. Whichever end of this spectrum you are, card reading can be a useful and fun addition to your spiritual growth toolbox and you may already have a deck or two yourself.
While Tarot cards have a long history and involve a specific system of reading and understanding the cards, most Oracle card decks offer a much more flexible approach. Some Oracle cards do have a system such as suits or groupings of cards with certain meanings, but most decks suggest a much more free-flowing way of reading them. Many decks come with a guide book which explains in little or great detail the maker's intention or meaning they have assigned to the cards, but some decks don’t. Those that don’t rely instead on the reader’s ability to tap into their intuition, to get a feeling from the cards or to open themselves up to guidance from a higher place. Many readers actually choose not to use the guidebook, preferring instead to receive impressions or perceive vibrations from the art work or the words on the cards themselves. Whichever method you decide to use to read your cards is fine if it feels good to you.
There are a plethora of beautiful Oracle card decks on the market today and many of them are works of art in themselves. They come in as many themes, styles and color-schemes as you can imagine, and so choosing a deck can be the difficult first step. When you are ready to get your first Oracle card deck consider your own preferences in terms of what appeals to you aesthetically, watch a lot of deck walk-throughs on YouTube and then just go for it and make a purchase. Having a feeling for a deck or being drawn to one goes a long way in making a good choice after all, we are developing our intuition here!
OK, so you’ve got your deck, now what? The best thing you can do as your next step is to familiarize yourself with the cards, all of them, one by one. Think of these Oracle cards as your new friends; explore them with curiosity and a certain reverence because after all, you are going to be talking to the Gods through them. If they come with a guide book, take a look at what the maker and artist intended with their creation. I like to go through each one of my cards, reading the guidebook while looking at the art work with a magnifying glass. I may never pick up the guidebook again, or I may turn to it if the words ring deep and true. The more you handle your cards and the more of your focussed attention you put into them, the more they will become yours and the deeper your understanding of them will be.
Using the cards
The most popular way to use Oracle cards is to first ask a question and then to draw a card to provide an answer. Asking ‘open’ questions is best, since most decks are not designed to give hard and fast yes or no answers. Rather, Oracle cards reflect and convey the energy around a particular situation. For this reason, many people phrase their questions as, “What do I need to know about ~?” and then draw a card. Don’t get too hung up about the right way of choosing a card, you have 3 basic choices. You can shuffle the deck until a card falls or ‘leaps’ out, you can cut the deck and then take the top card, or you can fan them out or spread them on the table and let your hand be guided to the card. Try as many ways as you can imagine, and use the way that feels the best. When you start to do something new it often feels a little odd, don’t be put off by this, just keep in mind that the more you use your cards the more natural it will become.
At first, people might presume that card reading is about fortune telling or predicting the future. But having an understanding of what is actually happening is useful when we start to use them for ourselves. As I’m sure you are aware, all things are made of energy and I’m sure too that you’ve heard the phrase like attracts like. This is the basis of the Law of Attraction and explains why things of the same vibrational nature are drawn together. To simplify, just as the experiences and people are drawn into your life because of your vibration, (there are no such things as coincidences) so too is the card you draw from the deck. The card drawn will correspond to the energy of your thoughts and so the energy around your question.
So the cards may be able to tell you what the future will hold, but only if the energy of the situation doesn’t change. Think of a card reading as a kind of snap-shot of the prevailing energy of that exact moment in time, giving descriptive rather than prescriptive information. Rather than telling you what is going to happen, the Oracle reading will suggest why something is happening, so giving you a better understanding of the hidden forces shaping your experience.
Using the cards for spiritual growth
For Problem Solving
This ability to reflect and show us the energy of a situation is particularly useful when we find ourselves up against a challenge or difficulty. Very often we are taught to think about a problem until we come up with a solution, when in actuality thinking is not always what helps. If you’ve ever found yourself overthinking a situation or having the same thoughts going around and around inside your head, you’ll know what I mean. Other times when we seem to be in a puzzling or upsetting situation, it can be because our ego-self is reacting in a way that it thinks will keep us safe, and in this situation more mental activity doesn’t help either.
But when we take a deck in our hands and surrender our thinking over to the cards we can gain perspectives we didn’t have access to before. For a start, defining and composing the question can give us clarity as to the essence of the situation and how it relates to us. Rather than asking the kinds of questions that arise in our thinking mind, we can ask deeper questions concerning what to look at in ourselves to get a new understanding of the situation. For example, instead of asking “Why did X do that to me?” we can ask, “What do I need to know about this situation with X?” or “What can I learn from this situation with X?” As we widen our enquiry and seek to understand the bigger picture, the cards will show us the message carried by our circumstance. Since nothing happens by chance, the cards can pick up on the more subtle energy that’s contributing to our situation, energy that our circular thinking may not detect.
Because Oracle cards are so easy to use however, it’s important to do more than scratch the surface when receiving a message. Rather than looking at the key words or phrases and quickly moving on, it will serve you well to do a deeper exploration. Not only should the cards be read at their face value, but you should also be asking how those answers relate to the question, and how they relate to each other if you draw more than one card. The art work or imagery on the card should also be considered: What does it remind you of? What kind of emotional reaction does it trigger? And what could it represent about your situation if viewed symbolically or metaphorically? Look at the cards for a few minutes or more with a soft gaze and notice what comes to you in thoughts, images, feelings and emotions. What does the combination of words and images say to you intuitively? Using our intuitive, non-physical senses like this builds our trust in them, makes them stronger and helps is to establish a deeper relationship with our inner self. This is one way that using Oracle cards can help you to get you out of your head, and into your heart.
Oracle cards are also useful as a meditative tool to help you to practice keeping focussed attention. Pull a card for the day, set a timer and sit in contemplation of that card. If you find your mind wandering, gently bring it back to the card. While you are observing the card, focus simultaneously on your breath going in and out. Don’t try to interpret the card, simply notice the colors, forms, landscapes and shapes.
Let everything you see pass through your mind like clouds passing across the sun. It can be hard to slow down your thinking, especially at first, but little by little with practice you will learn to be the master of your mind.
When this happens, you will find that you can focus it calmly, rather than it bouncing from thought to thought like a wild monkey. A mind that you can focus becomes like a prism amplifying your energy and directing your will. While a mind over which you have little control is more like a cloudy window through which it’s difficult to see the light. When you work with your cards in meditation, it’s a good idea to have a journal nearby for after the timer goes off to record your thoughts and impressions.
For Inner-child Work
Inner-child work is when we access parts of our subconscious selves and seek to heal the wounds held there. It is famously said that all our beliefs about ourselves and the world around us are formed before we are 6 or 7 years old. Before that age, we have no ability to discern what is true or not true so we absorb these messages from those around us, and make sense of the world with the logic of a child. In order to survive we have to put complete trust in our parents and caregivers, and so we explain away situations that don’t feel good by blaming ourselves. For example, if we don’t experience the love that every child deserves from their parents we deduce that we are unloveable.
Over the years these thoughts and beliefs settle in our psyche like the sand at the bottom of a pond, and we automatically take them as our foundation of what is true about life. Doing inner-child work helps us to access these false beliefs and transform them into those that serve us for the better.
Some decks are especially good for inner-child work, and we can use our questions to open up a dialogue with that aspect of ourselves. Questions such as, “What would you like to tell me?” “How can I nurture and support you more?” and “What hidden gift do you carry?” often uncover great ways of healing and forming new beliefs about who we are. It’s important to couple this kind of practice with journaling, not only so we can reach deep into our subconscious but so that we have a record of our ongoing inner journey.
For Shadow Work
One of the best aspects of reading cards is that they tap into our unconscious and, as you may or may not know, the unconscious is where the shadow self resides. Our shadow, according to Jungian psychology, consists of all those aspects of ourselves that we cannot see or accept. Exploring our shadow leads to a deeper understanding of who we are and why we do what we do. It allows us to get in touch with all we have repressed, both good and bad, and reveals our more authentic self which can lead to great happiness and personal awakening.
For shadow work we can choose to use ‘darker’ decks, those that have a wider range of keywords and imagery rather than purely positive. We can ask questions that search for deeper meanings such as, “What is my major blind spot right now?” “What truth am I currently avoiding?” “What is holding me back that I don’t want to face?” and “What am I projecting onto others?” When doing shadow work I like to dip into the guidebook as an additional angle to interpreting the cards. This helps to sidestep any avoidance or excuses my ego may try to fob me off with. Be sure to have a journal at hand to explore the answers brought through the cards. Bringing our dark side into the light is beneficial for all of us and helps us to become balanced and compassionate human beings.
Pathworking is a visualization technique that involves mentally projecting yourself into the picture of a card. This is useful for changing your perspective of a situation, allowing your intuitive self to come up with solutions to problems, or facilitating Law of Attraction work by building your ability to visualize and project yourself into an ideal future. Start by sitting in a dimly lit room making sure you will not be disturbed. Breathe deeply, ground yourself and bring your consciousness into the present moment. When you feel calm and centered, look at your chosen card and project yourself into the reality of the picture with your imagination. Use all of your imaginative senses to see, hear, smell and feel your surroundings. Spend time walking around the landscape and if there are any beings there, strike up a conversation with them. What information do they have for you? What wisdom do they want to share? And how does the experience make you feel? The more you exercise your imaginative senses the easier this method of inner journeying becomes. You will find that both meditating on a card and doing pathworking sessions strengthen your ability to focus and hold your attention purposefully. This kind of self-directed mind control helps us to develop control over our vibration too, and so enables us to use the Law of Attraction successfully to bring our dreams and desires into our physical experience.
For Self Love
Choosing a deck that emphasizes loving and supportive messages helps to remind us to give ourselves a break and not to judge ourselves harshly. When we judge, either ourselves or others, we are pinching ourselves off from the infinite source of life force energy. Judging strengthens the ego-self and makes us feel separation more than love. When we are living in identification with the ego-self, we feel small, vulnerable and in need of protection. Drawing a card that brings a feeling of self love and encouragement reminds us that we are all here just doing the best we can with what we think we have.
You can ask such questions as, “What do I need to appreciate more about myself?”, “What can I forgive in myself?” and “How can I nurture my soul today?” Working with the cards in this way helps us to change our inner voice from critic to one that supports and loves us. If your thoughts are not your friends this kind of work is essential. Keeping a journal of your feelings and reflections helps you to process and release the emotions that the cards bring up.
These are just a few ways that you can use Oracle cards for spiritual development. Whether you consider your cards to be a powerful gateway to the subconscious allowing you to access your inner self, or a magical doorway through which the gods or your spirit guides talk to you, working with Oracle cards teaches you to trust in something bigger than yourself. When most of humanity is caught up in living life through their thinking mind, Oracle cards bring a breath of fresh air and new perspectives into our world. Reading the cards gives us access to the deep wisdom that lies beneath our thinking mind and when we learn to trust that, we can drop into the core of our being and live purposeful and spiritually conscious lives.