Oracle Cards Are the Spiritual Tool You've Probably Been Missing Out On
From diving into the weeds of astrology to charging crystals and even making moon water, there's always room to learn more, even if you've been into metaphysical practices for decades. And given how challenging the last two years have been, it's no surprise that there's been an uptick of general interest in these tools.
Gabriela Herstik, L.A.-based witch and author of Inner Witch: A Modern Guide to the Ancient Craft, agrees, noting, "There's just been a boom of self-exploration and spirituality, as people want to find modalities to help them through these weird times and darkness."
One modality that is truly accessible for just about anyone: oracle cards. Here's what they are, how to use them, and a few decks to check out.
What Are Oracle Cards?
Herstik defines oracle cards as a set of divinatory cards that are used for personal exploration and ritual. If that sounds a lot like tarot, that's because they are. But unlike tarot decks, which always have 78 cards, divided into major and minor arcana, oracle cards aren't defined by any kind of set structure, she notes.
"Oracle cards can be used for any kind of exploration based on whatever the artist and author of the deck decide," says Herstik. "There's no one thing that makes an oracle deck an oracle deck, besides the fact that they're a deck of cards that are used for spiritual insight."
Lisa Marie Basile, author of City Witchery: Accessible Rituals, Practices & Prompts for Conjuring and Creating in a Magical Metropolis and founder and creative director of Luna Luna Magazine, likes several oracle decks, including the Vera Sibilla Italiana Deck. Though it was traditionally used for predictive purposes, Basile has integrated it into ancestral work and uses it to gain clarity on specific questions. "When I pull an oracle card, especially with this deck, the answer is interpreted through the lens of ancestral magic," she explains. "So, I might ask a question about how my grandmother might do something or what sort of message my lineage — or a family archetype, like a wise great grandmother or the place itself from which my family comes — has to offer me."
How to Choose Your Own Oracle Card Deck
To find the deck that speaks to you, you'll do well to go to your local metaphysical or bookstore that sells oracle decks and browse around for one that resonates with you. If you can't make it somewhere in person, shopping online works (Herstik likes TarotArts.com; I'm a fan of House of Intuition).
As you peruse, Basile recommends asking yourself questions like: "What speaks to you? What calls your name? How does the imagery align with you? Is it focused on an ethnic or cultural aspect of who you are? Does it feel right?" You can always buy a couple decks, and see how the energy feels.
Herstik agrees, adding that finding a deck that appeals to you artistically is "super important." And in general, you want to "allow your intuition to guide you."
How to Use Oracle Cards
From pulling one card a day to see what guidance it can offer you for that time period to meditating with the deck or doing a tarot-like spread, there are a wide variety of ways to work with an oracle card deck.
But for starters, once you have your deck in hand, Herstik recommends cleansing it with sacred smoke (from sage or palo santo), taking each card out one by one to spend time looking at them, shuffling them, then pulling a card during a meditation or once a day to get to know your deck.
Basile likes to hold the cards in her hand, making a deep connection with them before asking a specific question. Then, she'll pull a single card, pouring her intention and energy into the moment.
Herstik recommends trying a three-card spread. You could do a past, present, future spread; a mind, body, spirit spread; a spread in which one card represents what you know, one is what you don't, and the third is how to move forward.
Individual cards can also be used as standalone magical tools. "You don't have to just divine with your oracle cards," notes Herstik. "You can pick a card that encompasses the energy that you want to embody or that encompasses the energy of a ritual you want to do."
This is one of my most loved ways to use cards in my go-to deck. When I've spied oracle cards that reflect a particular headspace or philosophy I want to embrace (like being creative or playful and passionate), I've placed them in a prominent place (like an altar) with crystals and other artifacts that align with that message.
Once you're ready to take it to the next level, try journaling after you pull a card, advises Basile. "Get past your immediate interpretation and go deeper," she advises. "Do you resist a message? Why? Does a message feel right? Why? In a sense, you are the oracle. You have to interrogate yourself."
Basically, when, where, and how you use your deck is up to you and what feels right intuitively. Once you start implementing them into your spiritual practice, you could find you're drawn to using them in a particular way. For instance, Basile loves to use hers while traveling. "Travel can put you in a receptive, transient mindset where you can really get to know yourself," she says. "I usually ask a question about my journey or what I should keep in mind, and what sort of message it might hold for me. It helps me to touch base with the space I'm in and get in touch with where my mindset is in my journey. What should I keep in mind? What is my emotional state?" For example, while traveling abroad, the cards inspired Basile to stay creative. She recalls later "writing so much on that trip."
Oracle Card Decks to Check Out
A few popular, well-loved options to get you started:
1. The Moon Deck by Aarona Lea
My personal favorite is a set of 44 cards that each display an affirmative insight. According to the author, the cards can be used daily for reflection, meditation, or in a tarot-inspired spread and are meant to help you develop your intuition, self-love, inner beauty, and emotional well-being.
2. Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck and the Wild Unknown Archetypes Deck by Kim Krans
"Working with nature feels really right to me," says Basile. "These decks also feel optimistic, actionable, supportive, wise, and soft rather than alarmist or scary."
3. The Tantric Dakini Oracle by Nik Douglas and Penny Slinger
Herstik recommends this 65-card deck that stems from Tantric mystical teachings.
4. The Starseed Oracle by Rebecca Campbell and Danielle Noel
Herstik loves this "beautiful," ethereal, 53-card deck, written by Campbell and illustrated by Noel, which "are designed to support you on your soul's path and embody who you truly are."