Friday, November 5, 2010

Oracle usage

In the last posting I quoted a book on the Tarot and so this time I’d like to talk a little bit more about the Tarot and other oracles. When some people think of the Tarot or an oracle, they retreat in fear or label them as bad because of broad generalizations or associations with “dark forces”. I understand these fears. I had them myself initially but fortunately I’ve worked through them and have seen the benefits of oracle usage.

An oracle, in the simplest of definitions, is a communication device. The communication however is between you and your spirit, or non-physical self. As I have talked about in the past, we are spirits (energies) which are enmeshed within physical bodies. For most of us, receiving guidance from our spirit is something that we do on an unconscious level, so unconscious that most people don’t even know they’re doing it. Our spirits guide us through our intuition but we’ve had this guidance socialized out of us because others didn’t understand it and have taught that it was evil and should be feared. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Our spirit or Higher Self is just another aspect of ourselves. It is our direct connection to the Divine and as such I know that my spirit has my best interest at heart because it is me! With that awareness in mind, finding a means for direct communication with that aspect of myself seems essential to me. The more clearly I am able to discern the guidance from my spirit and follow that guidance, the easier it is for me to come into alignment with the Divine. An oracle then becomes the communication bridge between these two aspects of myself.


The Tarot is a deck of cards similar to the decks that we all use for standard card games. Rather than using spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs however the Tarot uses other symbols to represent the physical (Earth), mental (Air), emotional (Water) and spiritual (Fire) aspects of ourselves. Different decks use different symbols but they all are referencing the same four energetic components of our existence.

A typical Tarot deck has the four suits mentioned above numbered one through ten. It then has four “face cards” with each suit represented as the King, Queen, Prince and Princess (father, mother, son, daughter). These four suits are collectively known as the Minor Arcana. In addition to those there are 21 other cards known as the Major Arcana. These represent the prototypical emotional response patterns that emerge as personality or “energy types” such as a traveler (the Fool), a hero (the Hermit), a creator (the Magician), or ruler (the Emperor) for example. The Major Arcana also represents the archetypal energy patterns that we experience throughout our lives such as completion (Death), love (the Lovers), energy balancing (Karma), or introspection (Hanged Man) for example.

In a typical Tarot reading one begins by posing a question. Most people believe that when they go to someone for a Tarot reading that they are asking the card reader the questions. In fact they are asking their Higher Self the questions and the reader is using the cards to interpret the answer for them. When you do the reading for yourself this becomes more obvious. The cards are shuffled and then dealt out into various spreads. The direction the card faces (up or down), it’s position in the pre-defined spread and it’s relation to the cards around it all factor into what it means for you in response to the question. The spreads can be as simple as a single card or more elaborate ones with 10 or more cards which gives a greater depth of response.

When you begin to see the Tarot, or any oracle for that matter, as what it is rather than fearing it for what it isn’t, it becomes a very useful tool in your life. With the almost non-stop chatter which goes on in our minds, sometimes being able to perceive guidance from our spirit can be near impossible. An oracle then becomes a clear communication vehicle for that connection. An oracle is simply a clearly defined tool for the communication between your conscious mind and your subconscious or super conscious mind. Depending upon how clearly you frame the question, the spread that you use, and your familiarity with the deck and the cards interpretations there is no limit to the guidance you can receive. As with life, the only limits are the ones that you put in place.


When I was first introduced to the Tarot I thought that it not something that I was going to get very much from. I had been to readers in the past and thought that the power was with them and not the deck. When you buy Tarot decks, typically they come with a book of interpretations. I was unsure how reading these predefined interpretations was going to get me any sort of unique answer to my potentially unlimited questions. As with most things of a spiritual nature that you buy through mass production, the authors aim towards the most casual user, therefore the interpretation books are usually broad, vague and very generalized. As you learn more about the Tarot however, you realize that the books are just a jumping-off point, the deepest interpretation comes from understanding the cards and relating to the deck.

Most people when they think of going to a card reader, they think of doing it to see if they’ll meet that special person, get a raise at work or answer some general question. I believe that comes from movies and TV and the way psychics are portrayed there. Sure those types of questions can be asked but one has to keep in mind that the future is not set in stone and so asking those sorts of questions can get you responses that may or may not come to pass. Meeting that special person is just one potential outcome that your future may hold but it is all dependent upon the paths you take.

A Tarot reading is a lot like being in your car and going from your home to some location on the other side of town. Based upon your knowledge of the roads, weather conditions, traffic, time of day, and your mood you may choose a very different path than you would have on another day and time. Perhaps that special someone would only interact with you if you had chosen to go down a specific street but traffic congestion caused you to change your mind at the last second and take a back street instead. But then again, perhaps that last minute change is what causes you to meet them. As with all of life, the potential was there but the choices you made affected the ultimate outcome.

I was introduced to the Tarot about 10 years ago by my partner who had been doing readings for himself for many years before we met. Over time I’ve found that daily readings for myself have been very useful personally but I’ve also learned a great deal about the process and about myself along the way. To me, the cards are a great way to see patterns emerging in my life and a way for me to see if my egoic self is aligned with my spirit. Based upon my experience, I’d like to offer some guidance for you if you’d like to begin your own personal journey with an oracle.


The most important part of selecting a card based oracle is the images on the cards themselves. The images themselves are symbols which speak to the deepest layers of our psyche. There is a great deal of truth in the old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” especially when it comes to oracles. I use the generic term oracles here because there are also oracle card decks which are not Tarot based and they can be very useful as well. The Tarot is a specific system with a set number of cards just like a set of Rummy cards or a Uno deck.

Tarot decks can be found at most larger book store chains but the best selections are at New Age shops. (If you are in the Seattle area, East West Books in the U-District has a huge selection.) They are also available online but unless you know of a specific deck that you want and can’t find it locally, it’s best to go where you can take the cards out, hold them and look at them. Take some time looking around at various shops before you make a decision. Try and find the widest range of cards before simply purchasing the lowest priced ones that you can find.

You want to choose a deck that you will enjoy working with for years and so selecting one with images which appeal to you will be very important. Once you start working with a deck, you’ll want to stay with it as long as you can because you’ll begin to imbue the deck with your energy through usage and that will deepen your experience. The images in Tarot decks are psycho-active. This means that the simple act of studying the symbols on a particular card activates your sub-conscious mind in such a way that allows explanations or interpretations to surface to the conscious level. This is where spending time looking through the deck before you purchase it will be beneficial. The deck that you should work with will hold great visual appeal for you for reasons that you may not even understand. Your intuition will guide you in that process. Our spirits have a way of making what we need be very attractive and what we do not need be very unappealing.


While most decks that you purchase will also come with an interpretation book, if it’s possible to only buy just the deck, go with that option because I would like to recommend that you purchase the book I referenced in the last post. “Tarot of the Spirit” by Pamela Eakins is a fantastic book to use. She provides some of the most directly spiritual interpretations of any book that I’ve seen as well as information on various spreads you can use and the history of the Tarot. It’s an amazing book and after 10 years of use, I’m still blown away by it. Even if your deck comes with a book, I’d still recommend also purchasing and using her book. You will be very glad that you did.

The book however should only be seen as a starting point when beginning to work with the Tarot. I’d like to give you a technique that I’ve developed in conjunction with my spirit guides to help you personalize the interpretations for yourself. When you initially begin working with the Tarot, essentially you are establishing the language that you and your Higher Self will use to communicate. Typically our Spirits give us direct guidance through our intuition. Our culture doesn’t emphasize this aspect of ourselves nor help us learn to develop it and so we don’t really learn to work with this innate ability. At various points in our lives however we realize that we are getting these “hunches” or “gut instincts” and desire to begin relying on these more and more but we don’t know how.


In the next posting I’ll share a process for personalizing your readings. In the meantime, I encourage you to begin searching for a deck which appeals to you. Many decks now have websites where you can see every card in the deck or see enough cards that you can decide whether you like the look of the deck or not. Trust that you’ll know it when you see it…even if you don’t know why. Enjoy the process.


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