You’ve probably heard of these magical things called oracle cards, but if you’re a beginner and want to know how to use and read them, this post is for you.
Although there are some expert tarot and oracle card readers, you don’t need to know the meanings of every card by heart to work with them. More and more women are rediscovering these spiritual, witchy tools and using them to connect on a deeper level with their intuition.
If you’ve ever found yourself with a big decision to make, wanting some inner guidance, or craving more ritual and sacred space in your life, oracle cards might be the beautiful breath of inspiration you seek.
What’s the difference between oracle cards and tarot decks?
A tarot deck comprises 78 cards, including a major and a minor arcana. Each card has a traditional meaning, and the deck follows a specific structure. Plus, tarot decks focus on helping you delve deep into your subconscious.
In contrast, oracle decks are made up of a different number of cards at the creatrix’s discretion. Oracle cards are also a divination tool but for more general wisdom and guidance. With oracle card readings, your intuition is front and center leading the way because there’s no set meaning or structure—each deck is different.
Tarot cards and oracle cards can be equally effective in helping you find clarity and guidance. It really depends on what you’re most drawn to. Many witches work with one or the other, depending on how she feels and what she needs in the moment.
What are oracle cards?
The word “oracle” actually originates from the Latin word “orare,” which means “to speak.”
Oracle cards come as a deck (a collection) of between 30-60 cards, usually based on a specific theme. That might be spirit animals, the moon, archetypes, witches, or something else. You’ll find a number, a word or phrase, and a beautiful image on each card. Sometimes the deck will be split into multiple suits, and other times it won’t.
Your oracle cards are always there for you, serving as your mystic council whenever you need an answer to a question (FYI, the answers are already within you), to ease fear and anxiety, or you want to read the energy of someone or a situation.
Oracle cards can help you:
- Gain inspiration
- Shift your perspective
- Connect with your intuition
- Refresh your mindset
- Feel encouraged and supported
- Delve deeper into your spiritual awakening
- Reclaim your feminine power
- Tap into the energy of a person or situation
But they’re not meant to be used to:
- Make decisions
- Predict the future
- Skip past doing the inner work
- Seek answers outside yourself
- Let someone else take control of your destiny
How to choose an oracle deck
There are hundreds of different oracle decks to choose from, so chances are good you will find at least one (if not a dozen) you feel inextricably drawn to.
My favorites include Rebecca Campbell’s Work Your Light deck, Angela Hartfield’s Nature’s Whispers, and Terra Soleil’s decks.
If you’re looking to purchase your first deck, let your intuition guide you because that’s what oracle cards are all about.
Which imagery stirs something in you?
How do you feel when you glance at different decks?
Go with the one you feel most drawn to. Don’t overthink it.
When teachers do readings with tarot cards or oracle cards for others, they’ll often use their client’s energy to guide their choice of deck for that reading.
If you have several decks, let your present mood and circumstance guide you toward the deck you call on.
How to use and read oracle cards
1. Get acquainted with your deck!
The first step in how to use oracle cards is to build a relationship with your deck. When you purchase a new deck, spend some time with it, peruse through the cards, touch them, and carry them with you. The more intimately you can connect with your oracle decks, the more helpful your readings will be.
2. Believe in magic
Some people don’t believe in working with tools like oracle cards, crystals, and the moon phases, because it’s not rooted in logic. But you’re not trying to connect with your mind, you’re trying to tap into your soul, and logic doesn’t work at this level.
So if you’re feeling a little apprehensive or silly for even attempting to use oracle cards, remind yourself to relax, and have fun. As long as you believe in what you’re doing, that’s all that matters. Forget what anybody else says. Those who believe in magic are the ones who find it.
3. Cleanse your deck & space before each reading
You can do this by burning some of your favorite herbs or using an essential oil spray or diffuser.
To cleanse your deck, hold it in your non-dominant hand, then use your dominant hand to make a fist and knock on the cards to banish any stagnant or negative energy.
4. Find some stillness
The next step in how to use oracle cards is to gather all your tools and find a quiet place where you feel comfortable and won’t be disturbed. This is important so you can tune into your energy and heart space.
It might help to close your eyes and meditate for a few minutes so you can get into the right zone.
5. Set an intention
Before you do an oracle card reading, it’s important to set an intention.
What do you seek?
And who do you want answers from? Your high self, Goddess, archetypes, angels, fairies, or the divine?
You might want to declare this by saying something like:
“I am open to receiving guidance from my soul.”
“I am open to Divine wisdom.”
“May I be guided by Goddess Kali, keeper of time and death.”
“May I be guided with love and light by Wild Woman.”
6. Ask a question
The next part of setting an intention is to ask a specific question. You might want general guidance in an area of your life (e.g., your sacred work) or support with something more specific (e.g., is it time to end a relationship?).
“What is the deeper message to the emotions I feel?”
“Help me see my greater purpose and mission here.”
“What is the moon illuminating for me tonight?”
“Show me the energy around my relationship with (name).”
7. Shuffle your oracle cards
It’s important to thoroughly shuffle your cards before you do a new reading. Keep shuffling until you feel you’ve shuffled enough. You don’t need to do this fancily like a blackjack dealer; any way will do as long as you give the cards a good shake-up. And do make sure all your cards are facing in the same direction so you can’t see the images.
When you’re done shuffling, it’s typical to split the deck roughly into three piles, restack them again into one pile, then spread them out in front of you so that no cards are hidden underneath others.
As you do this, remember to stay in the moment and to be with the cards.
8. Choose an oracle spread
You can do so many different oracle card spreads ranging from just one card all the way to seven. It depends on what you’re looking for. Call on your intuition to help you decide what you need most. If you’re new to this work and just learning how to use oracle cards, you might want to pull one card for your first few readings.
One card reading
Your one-card reading might be what you need most right now, what you need support with, or what today is about for you (if you’re working with your deck as part of your morning ritual).
Two card reading
Here’s a popular two-card reading. Your first card tells you what you need to let go of and leave behind you, while the second card tells you what you need to focus on to move forward.
Three card reading
Three card readings are very common when working with oracle cards.
A common one looks like this:
Card #1: Past
Card #2: Present
Card #3: Future
Alternatively, these could be mind, body, and spirit.
The guidebook with your oracle deck will likely have other suggestions for readings that you can explore.
9. Select your cards
You might want to move your hand over your cards until you feel some heat over a particular card or just select the ones you instinctively feel drawn to. I know I’ve said it already, but lean on your intuition here.
Pull all your cards and place them in front of you, face down. When you’re done selecting all your cards, you can turn them over.
10. Reflect on your reading
Now comes the crucial step: pause and sit with the cards in front of you. Gaze at them. Are there any words, symbols, colors, messages, or images that stand out to you? Is there an image that reminds you of something that seems unrelated? What feelings are rising as your eyes roam?
Trust whatever comes up for you, even if it doesn’t quite make sense right now. This is totally normal. Don’t overthink it.
If nothing is coming through to you immediately, take a few minutes here. Hold a card to your heart. There’s no rush.
11. Let the guidebook help you
Once you’ve let yourself explore your reading using your intuition, you can consult the guidebook description for some more wisdom. Sometimes, the long, expanded description won’t resonate with you much, but the single word or phrase on the card will, and that’s okay. You don’t need to rely on the guidebook.
This is a very important step when doing an oracle card reading! Take some time to journal on the messages and guidance you’ve received. You might want to meditate on this and then journal or go straight into journaling. Let everything pour out of you, and resist the urge to censor.
13. Take action
The final step for how to use oracle cards is to think about the next steps you can take following the guidance you received and put it into action. Doing this spiritual work is so important, but if we don’t channel this into the physical world, then we won’t be able to create the change we seek, and without change, we won’t grow.
So think about one action you can take that same day, and commit to doing it.
Other tips on how to use oracle cards
- Keep your decks in a special place like your altar or in a special drawer
- Use your cards as part of a moon ritual
- If there’s a deck that helps you channel a specific energy, place it somewhere prominent or carry it with you
- Take them with you when you travel for extra inspiration
- Give yourself time for the guidance to marinate and resonate with you (and it’s okay if the deeper meaning never arrives)
- Remember: you won’t always hear what you want to hear
- But when you pull a card that does reaffirm what you’re thinking or feeling, celebrate this confirmation!
- Use your oracle decks in whatever way feels right to you (if you’ve tried them a bunch of times and you’re not feeling it, you don’t have to continue working with them!)
Believe, open & receive
Working with oracle cards is a lovely addition to any spiritual practice or ritual. Even browsing through a beautiful deck can lift, inspire and move energy through your body.
Do you have any more questions on how to use oracle cards?
And if you’re already working with them, what’s your favorite deck right now?
Drop your comments and questions below!