How to Choose and Use Oracle Decks
At our recent tarot meetup, we had a conversation about non-tarot oracle decks. Some of the questions that came up inspired me to put some thoughts together about how we choose and use oracle decks.
From a tarotist’s perspective, the problem with non-tarot oracles is that they follow no particular tradition. Each diviner needs to figure out how each oracle will work for them.
A problem that occurs in tarot reading but occurs even more frequently in oracle divination is that readers often don’t understand what a reading that uses random token divination truly is.
When we use a random token divination tool, we are responsible for extrapolating the interpretation. This is true for tarot and non-tarot oracles. We cannot simply rattle off a written interpretation, or read the words printed on a card, and take that as an oracular reading.
We must be able to take the keywords and standard card meanings and perform an actual interpretation by applying them to the specific situation or question.
We must be able to look at the image and see within it something that guides us and inspires us.
We must be able to use the words and the images to stimulate our intuition so we can dive into the cards and find the truth that resides there, for that reading, in that particular moment.
When working with the same deck over time we must develop a relationship with the individual cards, remembering how they have spoken in the past to see if their current message might be similar.
There are so many lovely oracle decks available. How can we know which ones to choose? Much like tarot, the deck themes and the beauty of the art should be considerations, but not the only considerations.
For me, a good oracle deck has complex art that I can use to stimulate the imagination and the intuition.
I don’t want to see an image of a fairy and read that I have chosen the ‘Lily Fairy’. I don’t want to learn a fluffy lexicon that someone has randomly invented. I want to work with ideas and images that are understandable and actionable. I want images that can afford a bit of scrying, letting me discover things within the image.
Many oracle decks actually rely on bibliomancy as well as random token divination. To get the full understanding of the card you have to read about the card in the guidebook. It may be possible, over time, to memorize the guidebook, though non-tarot oracle decks do not always lend themselves to this kind of study and memorization.
We can use non-tarot oracles in conjunction with tarot, to clarify a card, close a reading with a final card, or to add information to a tarot reading.
We can also use non-tarot oracles on their own. My favorite way to use them is in working with a group, since anyone can derive information from an oracle deck – no prior skill or understanding is required. To let each person pull one card and share their impressions can be really powerful. That is why I prefer an oracle deck where the cards speak for themselves and do not require us to consult the booklet to do the reading.
Yet, we can bring skill and practice to our work with non-tarot oracles, just as we can with tarot. The important factor is to take the time and energy to dive deeply into the words and images, and make connections with them that are pertinent and meaningful.
My favorite oracle cards use images and words that are evocative. I try to make a few of these decks available in my catalog for purchase. I want my clients to be able to access the beauty and wisdom of these cards.
The Mystical Wisdom Card Deck features the evocative art of Josephine Wall. Each card has a keyword and a short phrase. The booklet offers a longer description, and a mantra, for each card. Rarely do I use the booklet. I love to pull just one card as a focus point, or a message from the Universe.
Ciro Marchetti’s Oracle of Visions has no words on the images. The accompanying booklet offers some thoughts on each image. I actually never refer to the booklet – I just meditate with the image and see where it takes me.
Alana Fairchild’s Rumi Oracle has artwork that can easily bring one to a trancelike state. The short phrases, inspired by Rumi, are good jumping-off points for self-examination and inspiration. The book offers rituals to perform for each card.
I don’t tend to use oracle cards in professional readings. I do use them in group work and for my own personal growth.
The three I’ve listed here are all great resources for introspection and growth. Can they offer the same detailed information as tarot? Absolutely not. Nor do they require the same sort of training. Yet, like many oracle decks, they can be a great door-opener to intuition, and a good companion tool to a strong tarot practice.