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When I was 14 years old, I got my very first set of oracle cards. It was an angel oracle deck that opened up my world to the supportive energies all around us and helped build my own intuition. If you’re new to divination practices, this primer on oracle cards for beginners explores what they are, how they can be used, how to pick an oracle deck, and how to give a reading.
In general, oracle cards are divination tools that can help you connect to your true self, illuminate your path, and help you gain more confidence and clarity.
As the creator of Unshakable Inner Peace oracle deck, I often get asked what the difference is between tarot cards and oracle cards. Although the difference may seem subtle, each can produce different outcomes.
A tarot deck is a classic set of 78 cards that fall under the categories of major or minor arcana. The cards are divided into four suits (wands, cups, swords, and pentacles). It can take years to learn the process and really understand all the layers of tarot. For that reason, oracle decks are more accessible to people, as they are less structured and can contain any number of cards on any theme. Tarot also speaks to ancient tradition, while oracle card readings can have a more modern twist with themes and imagination.
An oracle deck is often inspired by a theme or idea from the creator, such as Ashley River Brant’s Messages From the Heart of the Divine that connects you to earth, spirit, and self. Or the oracle deck can be inspired by a core unifying subject or signature teaching like Colette Baron Reid’s Spirit Animal Oracle or Rebecca Campbell’s Starseed Oracle.
[Read: “9 Card Decks for Healing, Divination, and Affirmation.”]
An oracle deck can essentially be whatever the creator wants it to be, because they pick how many cards are in it and what sorts of imagery it'll use, as well as what purpose the deck will serve. Most oracle decks have images and words, along with a guidebook that explains ways to interpret the messages.
With so many decks available, how do you know which one is best for you? First you want to set your intention. Ask yourself why you want a deck and what the intended purpose is. For example, are you looking to build your intuition, connect with crystal energy and ancient wisdom, or feel more inner peace? Knowing your big “why?” will help you find the right deck.
As you dive into the practice and use your oracle deck, notice what comes up for you. Pay attention to your feelings and energy. Each image is a collage of inspiration, ideas, and guidance to help direct you to your own inner knowing.
Pay attention to the colors, the specific images, and the key character in each image. How do you feel when you experience the images? What messages come to you? As you observe, your inner guidance will give you even more messages to assist in the reading.
Center yourself by closing your eyes and getting grounded. Take a deep breath in and let it out slowly; repeat until you feel yourself align with the moment. Some people like to put on nice music or light a candle. Do what feels good and right to you. The important thing is to develop a practice of connecting with the cards that works for you.
If your card deck is new, you want to separate each card and put your energy on each one before you do your first reading. To do this, hold the card between your palms and infuse it with the intention of love and light. This is an energetic practice that helps you align your own energy with the deck so the reading will be accurate. Before each reading, you will want to shuffle the cards. I often put the entire deck in one hand and knock on it up to three times with my dominant hand to shake off any old energy and align it to the present moment.
While holding the deck and shuffling the cards, mentally ask your inner guide or higher self for alignment. Many people believe in and connect with a spiritual support system. Depending on what you believe, this could be asking for support from your angels or your higher power, or for spirit guides to be present and fill the space with love and assistance. By connecting with loving energy, you will feel supported.
[Read: “16 Affirmations to Help Connect with Your Spirit Guides.”]
As you align inward, ask yourself a question that you want an answer to. Maybe it’s a situation in your life you want more clarity around. If you don’t have a specific concern, you can always ask, “What message do I need to know right now?” The important thing is to just be present with the feelings and emotions that come up. You will be intuitively guided to pick a card; always trust the pull. Keep asking the question until you intuitively feel (or hear) when it is time to stop shuffling and pick a card. Trust that guidance. Pick that card, then use the booklet to see the full interpretation and reading.
Also, pay close attention to any cards that stick out, hang out, or jump and fall out of the deck. These cards are extra potent and are always meant for you as they hold the answer you need at that moment.
After you pick a card, you’ll want to observe the image and see what feelings come over you. What elements of the design are you drawn to, curious about, or even turned off by? All of it is part of the reading. After reading the front of the card, you can then consult the guidebook. Look at the number or name on the card and find it in the booklet. As you read the message, pay attention to your intuition and what comes to mind. You will get inner guidance; trust it.
Oracle cards, for beginners or longtime practitioners, offer a great way to find daily balance and clarity. They can help you increase your intuition and overcome stress, anxiety, and even fear.
Check out Shannon’s 9 affirmations for clearing your fear and embracing daily miracles.
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