If this is intriguing to you, you’ll probably want to pick up The Oracle Card Journal ($16). Written by astrologer Maria Sofia Marmanides (whose insight you likely have seen all over this website), this journal slash how-to guide is a great primer on oracle cards for beginners. You’ll get tips on how to read oracle cards, plus the journal pages help you capture your insights for future reference.
Want to learn more? Read on for a primer on oracle cards for beginners, including what they can teach us, how exactly they’re different from tarot, and the importance of journaling as a part of any intuitive card reading.
Oracle cards are any deck of cards that can be used as a divination tool—meaning, to access information about a past, current, or future situation—and as a means of self-reflection and introspection. They use symbolic imagery and keywords that are inherently designed to answer and align with the question being asked of them. Through a magical, alchemical process, when you ask your oracle cards a question, you can trust that the answer you most need to hear in that moment will present itself to you. By using oracle cards, you gain insight, wisdom, comfort, and clarity. You are guided to use your free will to take the next best course of action.
So how exactly do oracle cards work? And are the messages you receive your subconscious speaking to you? Or a higher power? Or maybe a little bit of both? Find out just how this magical practice works—and how it can change your life in all the best ways.
How do oracle cards work?
The word “oracle” comes from the Latin verb “to speak.” And that’s exactly what you’re doing every time you consult the cards and ask them for guidance. You’re “speaking” with the oracle through the cards in front of you. Engaging in this conversation is both human and divine: Oracle cards give you access to information from a higher power, but to interpret that information, you are invited to tap in to your own intuitive and subconscious powers. Like talking to, confiding in, or consulting a trusted friend, advisor, counselor, or therapist, oracle cards offer guidance. They’re not telling you what to do or handing you a doomsday prophecy that is guaranteed to happen regardless of what you do: They’re conversing with you from a loving place and hoping you’ll do what is best for you.
The practice of oracle card reading is often referred to as cartomancy, a fancy way of saying “predicting the future” or “divining meaning” using playing cards, tarot cards, or, in this case, oracle cards. Like all cartomancy-based tools, oracle cards can help you unlock answers to questions that have previously seemed unknowable or inaccessible—all by asking simple and direct questions to the deck and then interpreting the answer you receive. It can be literal, but often the magic happens in synthesizing the symbolism of the card’s meaning and your instinctive, intuitive reactions.
Why should you use oracle cards?
As a human being on this earth, you have an innate right to ask questions of the Universe. And it’s not a one-sided conversation! How the Universe responds to your individual curiosity about your life, its meaning, and your place in the cosmos—and how it opens your intuition and points to what you understand deep inside—is all part of your soul’s journey in this lifetime.
Therefore, think of your curiosity as a gift. Ask questions. Ask as many questions as you’d like. The more curious—and less judgmental—you remain, the more fulfilling you can make ordinary events in your life feel. Oracle cards let you know that you can navigate any situation—even the most challenging ones—with more grace and understanding, and with a deep knowing that there is purpose to your life.
And consider how unsatisfying it would be if someone told you exactly how everything was going to happen, regardless of your own actions. Like spoiling a favorite show or movie, you then wouldn’t necessarily want to watch the ending, or at least you wouldn’t enjoy it as much, would you? Imagine if the oracle just blurted out an exact timeline of events in your life. How utterly boring would that be? How robbed of catharsis would you feel—not to mention how powerless to shape your own future?
It’s by using oracle cards that you see they aren’t about “predicting” the future with literal accuracy. They can, should you choose to continue down a certain path they give insights into…but still, even in that case, the magic is in the process—and in your participation.
You’re like a detective who has been given clues—sacred clues so you know you’re following the right scent. Using oracle cards is a very personal process of asking the right questions to align you with your soul path. Your destiny. It’s understanding your part in the divine wisdom of the Universe—and that, as mentioned previously, you have a right to know things. You have a right to access a higher power, one you can tap in to whenever you desire, by learning how to find the inner core of truth already inside you. That way, when you confront the situation suggested in an oracle card reading, and see it playing out in real time, you truly understand how you are part of something greater than yourself.
Becoming your own oracle means knowing that the Universe is watching out for you and has a plan.
How many cards do you pull?
There are many different card spreads you can draw for an oracle card reading; keep it simple by using the one card method. You can glean a ton of insight from using just one card to answer your question. It’s as simple as grounding yourself before your reading, asking a question and pulling a card to answer it, and then meditating on the answer and journaling about it. It is when you pull one card and reflect on its specific message that the magic of oracle cards comes to life. No elaborate card spreads or complex questions. One question, one answer, and done. It really can be that easy.
How are oracle cards different from tarot cards?
Like tarot cards, oracle cards can be consulted any time you have a question, but unlike tarot cards, there are far fewer rules or traditional definitions to understand in oracle card readings.
While tarot is based on a seventy-eight-card system with sub-sets of cards (the Major and Minor Arcana), an oracle deck is made up of an indeterminate number of nonspecific cards, depending on the creator’s intention and discretion. Each oracle card is inscribed with a main keyword. The oracle card usually includes numbers and imagery, like a tarot card, but some oracle cards contain text only.
Additionally, tarot cards are often used to dig into the background of a question and can shed light on the underlying psychological or emotional energy behind the person asking the question or the situation they are asking about. Oracle cards are often much simpler and more straightforward, depending on the deck you choose. For example, whereas tarot requires more background knowledge of how to interpret pulling the Two of Swords in the context of a love reading, an oracle card is usually more direct, including keywords like “Let go” or “Acceptance.” In this way, oracle cards can be used for questions with more clear-cut answers.
Why is journaling so important for oracle card readings?
One of the most overlooked aspects of using oracle cards is the journaling process. While it may seem like an optional add-on, it is actually an essential piece to building your relationship with the oracle and with your own divinatory and intuitive capabilities. By writing something down, you give it life. It becomes more real. It also communicates to the oracle that you are taking its advice to heart. Journaling is like making a birth certificate of your question—and then seeing how it takes on its own life.
It is also part of a mindful meditation process. As you free-associate your responses to your initial oracle card reading, you will get positive reinforcement on how intuitive you already are, while also seeing over time how much you have continued to flex and expand that psychic muscle.
Excerpted from The Oracle Card Journal by Maria Sofia Marmanides. Copyright © 2022 by Simon & Schuster, Inc. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
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