How to Use Oracle Cards: The 411 on Reading Oracle for Beginners
I remember the first time I opened my first deck of oracle cards. I remember being flooded with excitement but also feeling rather confused. The artwork stood out to me – it was Brian Froud’s Faery Oracle – the cards were graced by the presence of beautiful wood nymphs, gnarly gnomes, and creepy goblins. I thought, “they’re beautiful…and I know I’m supposed to read them…but how?” Sure, most oracle decks come with a handy dandy little guidebook. But half of our questions aren’t answered in those pages. Now that I’ve been reading oracle for the past 12 years, I figured I could write an article and teach others how to use oracle cards. From start to finish!
First, What Are Oracle Cards Exactly?
Oracle cards are not Tarot Cards. They are two different forms of cartomancy, yet they are similar in many ways. To define oracle cards: these are printed decks of cards illustrated with beautiful imagery that evokes the reader’s imagination and intuition. As well as the reader’s understanding of symbols. Consult your oracle cards for messages from the Universe, the gods, spirits, or your higher self.
Oracle cards differ from Tarot in that the imagery varies widely. I mean, the symbols and themes of Oracle can literally be anything the artist and writer feel drawn to create. With Tarot, the cards follow a pre-defined system, i.e. the Rider-Waite Tarot deck, in which there are typically a major and minor arcana (suits). For our intents and purposes, we aren’t learning Tarot, we’re learning how to use oracle cards. So that’s all I’m going to say about Tarot (so as not to confuse you!) There are no specific suits or “arcana” in oracle.
Choosing the Right Deck
I’ll say this one time, you don’t have to be gifted a deck of cards in order to start using them. You can absolutely purchase your own oracle and tarot cards! That being said, you’ll start to notice that you vibe with some oracle cards but not with others. So, if you’re first set of oracle cards don’t seem to feel right, try another set. If you can’t afford another set, make your own. You can literally make your own deck with cardstock, paint or markers, and some creativity. Another tip to connect with your new deck is to sleep with it under your pillow, carry it on you in your purse or backpack, and just plain use them often.
Sometimes it’s the artwork or the messages on oracle cards that don’t match your energy. That’s okay too. As you move along your oracle-reading journey, you’ll find cards that will become your daily tool and others that you simply have as part of your collection. And if you really don’t like them, give them away. And remind the recipient to cleanse and charge them to align with their own energy.
Step 1: Cleanse Your Oracle Cards (And Why It’s Important)
Whether you bought your deck from a local shop or online, your cards need to be cleansed and charged. Cleansing removes any energetic funk clinging to the cards from manufacturing or sitting on store shelves. Keep in mind, after every use (particularly if you’re reading cards for other people), cleanse your deck again.
Ways to Cleanse Your Deck:
- Smoke-cleansing: light an incense stick, cone, or herb bundle. Then hold each card over the smoke to spiritually remove any unwanted funky energy. The first time you do this, cleanse each card individually. In the future, spread the cards out and fan the smoke over them.
- Bury them: wrap them in cloth or put them in a bag and bury them in a bowl of salt. Alternatively, bury the cards in the earth (make sure it’s not going to rain!) OR in a potted plant.
- Sound-cleansing: use drumming, flutes, or Tibetan singing bowls to cleanse your oracle deck
Step 2: Charge Your Oracle Cards
Charging your oracle cards fills them with positive spiritual energy so they function best. This is the spiritual equivalent to plugging your phone into a charger. Re-charge your cards once a month if you’re using moonlight or another technique (besides crystal-charging, as this method is constant. See more below). Here’s a few ways to charge your oracle cards:
- Sleep with the cards under your pillow: your charging the cards with your own personal vibrations PLUS connecting with the deck all-in-one step
- By moonlight: set the cards in a windowsill or outside in direct full moonlight to charge by the moon’s rays
- With a crystal or stone: by laying a crystal or stone on top of your cards and storing them in a special box or bag, the crystal’s energy will consistently charge them. A few examples of crystals that I use: clear quartz, amethyst, lapis lazuli and selenite (extra tip: selenite is self-cleansing AND cleanses other items in its vicinity – double purpose!)
This is a popular deck for it’s moon imagery and energy:
Step 3: Connect With Your Oracle Deck
If you’ve slept with your oracle cards under your pillow, this is a great way to develop that psychic connection. In addition, interview your oracle cards to get to know their energy better. There’s different ways of doing this, but essentially you’ll ask the cards different questions and pull one card per question for an answer:
- What is your purpose?
- What is your personality?
- How will you help me grow spiritually?
- What kind of an oracle deck are you?
Step 4: How to Read the Oracle Cards for Yourself
Now it’s time to learn how to read the oracle cards for yourself. The easiest method: ask an open-ended question, shuffle and draw ONE card. Take note of the FIRST thought or sensation that pops into your mind. Write it down. Then notice all of the elements of this card: the colors, theme, characters (if any), numbers, and messages written on the card. Is anything standing out to you? Sit with the card for a little while and meditate on its meaning. I also recommend keeping the card somewhere you can see it throughout the day. As for the guidebook, only reference it when you need extra clarification on a card.
Shuffling & Spreads:
Beginners want to know the best way to shuffle an oracle deck. There is no “best way”. The best way is YOUR way. Whether you riffle shuffle or go hand-over-hand is completely up to you! As for Oracle card spreads, after you get used to reading one card try cutting the deck into 3 piles and reading a 3 card spread. This spread represents things like past, present, future or the problem, factors impacting the problem and the resolution. After you get used to the three-card spread, try your hand at traditional spreads like the Celtic cross. There are literally hundreds of card spreads on Pinterest to experiment with!
The “Fanning” Method of Reading Oracle Cards
The Fanning method is when you take the deck and fan it out across the table. Then close your eyes and hold your dominant hand out over the deck. Slowly “scan” the deck by waving your hand over the cards until you feel a tingling, pulling, or some other sensation in your hand. Then place your hand on the card and open your eyes. Read this card’s message.
Step 5: How to Read Oracle Cards for Others
All of the methods you learned in the last step can be applied to reading oracle cards for other people. The only difference is that I typically recommend reserving the fanning method for your own personal readings. A couple things to remember when reading for others:
- Cleanse the deck before AND after reading the cards for others. Their energy imprints on the cards and you don’t want it carrying over to the next reading.
- Choose a spread or reading method before starting the reading.
- It’s wise to ask your guides and the person’s guides to provide a message through the cards that is “for the highest good of all”.
- Ask the person for an open-ended, self-centered question. An example is, “what else can I do to get the promotion at work?”
- You should shuffle the cards, but it’s okay to ask the person to cut the deck 3 times for their reading. Some readers don’t allow the person to touch the cards at all, and that’s okay too. Experiment with different ways and see what fits your style best.
- When learning how to use oracle cards, remember to be gentle on yourself. You don’t have to be perfect and eventually you’ll develop your own techniques and styles.
How to Properly Store Your Oracle Decks
Yes, most oracle cards come in a pretty box. Yes, you can keep them in that box if you have no other storage option. However, if it’s a deck that becomes particularly sacred to you, consider storing it in a pretty box or Tarot card bag. Find ornate wooden boxes in specialty shops and pretty Tarot and Oracle card bags on Etsy or in metaphysical shops. The great thing about having special bags and boxes for your cards is that you can keep a crystal or other magical items in with the cards. As previously discussed, when you keep a crystal on top of a deck of cards you’re constantly charging them with that crystal’s energy. An easy and effective way of keeping your cards functioning at full capacity!
More on Divination:
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- Water Scrying Ritual: Egyptian Magic and Divination