Sunday, April 2, 2017

How do Oracle cards work?

You have a question, a puzzlement, a messy place in your life that needs clearing and clarifying. You go to a friend for an oracle card reading, or perhaps you purchase an oracle deck for yourself.  The oracle card reading contains some amazing Aha moments and also some comments that seem to obscure as much as they enlighten.  So how do Oracle cards work?  Can you trust the reading to be showing you a way to resolution or revelation?  Or is the whole enterprise just smoke and mirrors.

My thoughts about this have been prompted by reading Trickster Makes This World, by Lewis Hyde. What a fascinating examination of those creatures such as Coyote and Raven, and figures such as Legba, Eshu and Loki who inhabit the shifty landscape between earth and heaven.  Hyde shows that in several indigenous cultures, it is the trickster figure that brings the art of divination to humans.

In the I Ching Chinese system of divination, and in the Yoruba palm nut Oracle, the reading is based on chance. This is also true in the Journey Oracle that I created.  Because of the random nature of throwing yarrow sticks, flipping coins, dropping palm nuts and drawing cards--chance empowers something to speak that is beyond your conscious control.

And yet beneath this randomness must be the willingness to believe that apparent chance actually follows grand design.  That apparent chance is in fact an Oracle.  So this is a very tricky place. The person receiving, and giving, the oracle card reading must both suspend what seems unreasonable--that palm nuts or oracle cards are speaking--and accept what seems equally unreasonable--that a dense weave of meaning can be understood by singling out images, aspects of nature and dream-like pronouncements.

Hyde quotes the Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chugyam Trungpa as saying, "magic is the total appreciation of chance."  Hyde goes on to say that we are more likely to appreciate chance if we stop trying to control what happens.  So oracle cards work in the borderland between order and chaos, where we are given an accidental glimpse of the divine, and no sure way to know what it means.  Just the sort of landscape where you might meet Raven or Coyote, who have just caused a problem that only they can solve.  Just like the "burning question" asked of the oracle cards can only be answered by the oracle cards, because those answers change the way you see things.