How to Use Oracle Cards

By Kristen Rogers Anderson

Oracle cards: they sound kind of mystical and full of gravitas at face value. And depending on your deal, or even your mood, that could either be intriguing or a turn-off. But at the simplest level, oracle cards are tools for insight, and by approaching them with an open mind I think there’s a way to meet in the middle and consider their use from a slightly different angle that can be beneficial — whichever side of the coin you land on.

The term “oracle cards” is an umbrella for basically any cards with images, symbols and/or words on them that either have a prescribed meaning or are meant to be springboards for you to draw your own conclusions. (Tarot cards can be similarly used but are distinctly different, with a set order and content across different styles of decks.) Oracle cards are used by picking one or multiple cards at a time and using their message(s) either as things to consider in answer to a question, as a thought/journaling prompt, as an intention…they’re super flexible, which is part of their appeal.

They’re also super varied, design-wise. Do a search for oracle cards online and you’ll find loads of different styles, independently made decks and those produced by companies. If you want to get into them, it’s likely that you’ll find a style that speaks to you with a little digging.

Here are 3 of Kara’s personal favorites! (The following are affiliate links, which means we may receive a small commission from your purchase at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting Boho Berry!)

Energy Oracle Cards by Sandra Anne Taylor

Goddess Guidance Oracle Cards by Doreen Virtue

Work Your Light Oracle Cards by Rebecca Campbell

The magical thinking most closely associated with oracle decks is the idea that the cards you select may be messages coming from the universe — that this card was meant to cross your path for a reason. For some people, that’s comforting and inspiring. For others, it doesn’t hold water — the card came into their path because they pulled it. Plenty of people are somewhere in between, curious or hopeful.

Years ago, I remember having a judge-y reaction to people talking about their yoga “practice” — it sounded puffed-up and precious in a forcible way to me. But once I started my own, ahem, practice, I understood. It’s quite literally that, something you continually try at, so why not call it that?

I think similar logic can apply to oracle cards. Like, yes, an oracle is someone (or in this case, something) delivering information from the mystical realms…but our brains are also pretty mystical and mystifying. Noticing your own reactions to certain symbols and messages on the cards can help you deliver YOURSELF info by prompting you to think about things from an angle you might not have otherwise. Oracle-esque, no? You can choose to interpret the messages as coming from the beyond or see your personal emotional response as the “message,” and I’d encourage you to entertain each, even just as a thought experiment.

One of the most popular ways to use oracle cards is by doing a three-card spread. (The card language of “spreads” suits itself nicely to documenting sessions as spreads in your Bullet Journal!) Three is a significant number magically and culturally, and also nice and approachable. Check out this spread from the first oracle card reading Kara ever did for herself in 2017!

Another way to approach the three-card spread is by having the cards symbolize aspects of your past, present and future, either in general or in regards to a specific area of your life. Depending on the cards you use, it may be easy to draw parallels or more challenging, but that’s part of the point. Maybe you might not have looked at your future with the message of that card in mind, but theoretically, how could you?

Thinking about that may unlock something for you. Check out Kara’s past, present, future spread, done on her birthday — a pretty perfect time to reflect, take stock and look ahead with a little different perspective provided by the cards.

You can use them in any way, on any day, in any number or with any meaning. There was a time that I found that kind of flexibility in personal practices (see! I even use it casually now) a little daunting. Wanting to do it the “right” way tends to mean “by the rules” — but, if you lighten up a little and realize that when it comes to extracurriculars in life, whatever feels fun and easy is actually “right,” it’s way better.

Any endeavor you embark upon to reflect or get guidance in a healthy way and further yourself is worthwhile, and all of us speak different languages and have different things appeal to us. You could try out oracle cards because you believe they’re creating a conduit for something beyond the physical to give you some insight. You could try them because you like the imagery and concept of them even though you’re not a true believer. Using them doesn’t mean you have to sign up to be all in on all things hippie-dippie (but by all means!) Let yourself like what you like, even when it’s incongruous with other things about yourself. That’s kind of awesome and beautiful.

My personal thoughts on oracle cards and the esoteric in general aren’t concrete. Although I hem and haw, I do think there’s something out there that can communicate, but that we’re on different wavelengths. It can’t speak, so you need to give it other tools to communicate, and cards are a really simple, pleasing way to do that. I don’t know that we’re getting a message from the beyond every single time — maybe sometimes, we are just pulling cards.

But I think I know that “hit” from somewhere else when I see it. It feels exciting and right, and that’s where there may be a magical ingredient in the mix besides just me and the cards. That’s just my gut and my guess; I have no idea how it actually works. But it almost doesn’t matter — it’s what we do with those hits and feelings that does. Guidance could be coming from the ether, maybe. But the decisions come from us.

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