Does an Oracle Know Something I Don’t Know?

Last March (2019), I took a leap. I created 30 mandalas with music and a video in 30 days. I’d never drawn mandalas before, never committed to drawing something for 30 days, let alone sharing them publicly, had never written a song a day, had never recorded myself making up songs on the fly, had never made a movie of myself drawing…. I had a blast.

It was a leap into creativity, a deep dive into what I’m capable of. And then the work itself became a chronicle of the leaping process, as each mandala represented the steps along the way of making a leap: Swimming in the deep end, encountering benevolent forces, getting lost, retracing your steps, finding strength, etc. 

But, wait. The mandalas didn’t do that. I did that. I decided on their meaning and significance. I could have let them stand on their own for others to make meaning out of, but I saw something. 

I wanted to see something. I wanted to see a communication from a deeper, wiser place. Because the process felt like a conversation. And I wanted to decode what I was receiving.

I am always looking for signs from this wiser, deeper place. I have always made and posted physical signs. And even though I have made them, they still have the impact of signs, as if the Universe itself is reminding me, encouraging me, and loving me. 

Which is how I came to fall in love with decks of cards with messages on them. (I recall my first encounter, in 6th grade, here.)

But the real twist, that Something Else, the other dimension of cards with messages on them, came after I’d released my first deck, Soul Messages. I noticed that they tended to know exactly what was needed, delivering the right message for the circumstance. Their aptness and wisdom were, In the words of a customer and regular user of the cards, “uncanny.”  

And that’s when I realized that decks of cards with messages on them are actually oracles. They are a method of divination. Which begs the question, does a deck of cards (or any other oracle, for that matter) know something I don’t know? The answer is, of course, no. 

And, yes.

A Brief History of Divination

Apparently, divination has been around as long as humanity. In terms of usefulness in daily life, a good divination tool reframes a life situation, randomly selecting a frame that forces us to release our biases and habitual ways of seeing, and in so doing, find a new approach to our situation. 

Because we make our own meaning, we necessarily ignore aspects of our reality that don’t fit with the story we want to tell. Divination tools force us to expand the story and find ways to incorporate things we hadn’t considered into our meaning-making, and, by extension, into our decision-making and choices. They help us see the opportunities in apparent misfortune and find strength we didn’t know we had.

In other words, you can’t solve a problem with the same mindset that created it…and that’s why we turn to something outside ourselves for guidance.

There is a connecting-with-spirits aspect of divination that is also as old as humanity itself, but I, lacking in first-hand knowledge of this aspect, have always shied away from it. Not to mention that I and many other have suffered a form of spiritual trauma, asked (or forced) to adopt a set of beliefs and to live in ways that are out of alignment with who they are. Rather than being encouraged to discover their own meaning and belief, they are expected to accept and believe someone else’s.

That’s the big reason why I don’t make cards that talk about angels, ascended masters, chakras, auras, spirit animals, the holographic universe, karma and Great Spirit. I do call spirit the names I use, but they are nebulous and pass easily for [fill in the blank], which I would like my readers to do.

But because I don’t talk about all the spiritual belief systems and use the woo words, it took me a while to recognize that decks of cards with messages on them do help re-frame and create shift, and that is the something deeper and wiser speaking.

The Frame is Everything 

Any source of randomly generated reframes can be a great way to increase your options and kick-start your imagination, pointing you in new directions. The biggest factor in choosing an oracle or divination tool, then, is to know who created it and what framework they used. When you’re picking an oracle, in other words, it’s handy to know what its biases are, or else you’re likely to disregard its wisdom.

If angels and unicorns aren’t for you, maybe that’s because you don’t want to choose from within that framework. 

So, what are the things you should look for to know if this tool’s for you? Here’s my list, and below that, who I am as an oracle, or oracle-creator.

1. Belief system

What’s the frame of reference for this oracle? What does it believe in? Examples: Everyone is basically good. To get ahead in life, you have to work hard. God is judging you. Jesus is the savior. People are sinners. Angels are watching over you. These are beliefs. Find the ones that you can endorse, or at least are open to. If you can’t discern a belief system, check into your body. Does it clench or open when you hear this oracle’s wisdom?

2. The Question of Pain

People turn for help when they’re in pain. How does this oracle treat your pain. Does it tell you it’s karma? Tell you it means something? Means nothing? Is your fault? Is a lesson? These, too, are beliefs. How the oracle deals with emotional and psychic pain is key to its helpfulness in moving through it. 

3. Flight to the Light or Spiritual Bypassing

Does this oracle ignore all the grit and sloppiness of the human experience, gloss over it and hold out a goal of perfection that is difficult, if not impossible, to attain? Is it all fairies and feathers, without any of the blood, sweat, guts and tears? Does it hold out hope without a roadmap? Does it interpret everything in terms that are ethereal and ignore the realities of human existence, like loss, disappointment, betrayal, and discouragement?

4. Inherently Rewarding

Is it rewarding, fun, satisfying to use? Would you do it again? Did you get something out of it, even without a lot of work? This might mean the oracle is good with itself and doesn’t need you to validate it. Kind of like that ideal date. But, seriously, it needs to be about you, giving you an experience of being seen, heard and loved.

5. Respects the client’s point of view and priorities

There should always be room for interpretation without just confirming everything you already think and believe. If the oracle is busy trying to convince you of something, it may not be listening. On the other hand, if it doesn’t introduce a new idea in a way you can hear, then you will probably not listen to it.

6. Introduces paradigm-shifting ideas that are nonetheless accessible

It’s good to be a little stunned, a little speechless, a little shaken up when you consult an oracle. Intrigued and curious are other good responses. You should walk away looking at the world a little differently.

7. Elicits qualities and strengths you’ve been ignoring

All the while you’re focused on what’s wrong and how to fix it, which is what brought you to the oracle in the first place, the oracle’s been, like, “Hey, there, gorgeous, come sit with me.” And suddenly, you feel beautiful and like your time is valuable. Also, you feel you can do what needs to be done to shift your situation.

8. Puts struggles in perspective

That is, helps you make sense of things. Helps you see a bigger picture. Helps you understand the value of your struggles. Gives you hope that it will get better, because we all have to deal with this somehow or other, whatever “this” is.

9. Empowering

No blame, shame, guilt, should, shouldn’t, regret, or judgment and rigorously tested for any hint of any of these. Empowering is a mix of acceptance and seeing something beyond what is, coupled with at least opening a doorway to heading in that direction. There’s an inherent dignity in being a seeker. It’s as valid as being a satisfied Buddha. Whichever you are, if you come to an oracle for wisdom, you should leave feeling seen, heard, respected and opened to something new.

10. Opens possibilities that feel inspiring

Answers and explanations, while satisfying to the ego, are not inspiring. Inspiring means, literally, to breathe in. Enthusiasm is the same, filled with god. That is the feeling a good oracle leaves you with.

My statement as oracle creator

Perhaps the most important thing to know about me, your author and diviner, is that I believe in the inherent goodness of the Universal order. I believe in goodness. I believe it’s all pervasive and will prevail. I believe that everything is here to help us, that pain and dis-ease are messengers, and that the natural world is our ally. 

I believe reality is what we make it. That is the great work and miracle of this human trip. I believe if you believe there are angels watching over you, then it’s true for you. I don’t believe in sin, one god, or a literal savior, but sometimes I will pray as if I do. I don’t adhere to a particular dogma or set of beliefs. The deeper my connection to my Higher Power, the less I understand it. 

I don’t believe in shoulds. I don’t believe one size fits all in health, diet, spirituality, or activities. I see the usefulness of labels, but cringe when people sell themselves short by identifying strongly with some things to the exclusion of others, which might serve them better. I’m against telling people what to believe and will only tell you what I believe if you ask me. I believe everything can be made into something useful. (Even garbage is useful–or will be.)

I believe pain is real, a part of this human trip, perhaps uniquely human. I believe it’s a combination of emotional, physical, mental and spiritual factors and can be addressed in a number of ways, each unique to the person and the time. I respect pain, but I do not fear it. Like all adversity, it can be a gift, but only if you believe in gifts and can work through your fear of punishment, guilt, and karma.

I believe in leaning into the human experience. I believe we can’t know the meaning of something until we’ve walked through it. I don’t believe in perfection, except the imperfect kind, and I do believe that paradox is the mark of Spirit at work, which only gets clearer with a wider perspective. So, patience, confusion, and yes, sometimes, suffering are all part of life.

I believe in a light hand. The oracle should fade into the background, and the person doing the reading should come to the foreground. Yet I also believe in my unique voice as a carrier of wisdom that may be strong enough to break through your usual ways of thinking and help you see something a little different for yourself. 

I like readers and clients to experience an opening of some kind, be it in the face, the heart, or the mouth, when they read something of mine. Which might lead to something more, or might be all there is.

When I’m creating a divination tool, I hold out for the next idea, the one that’s a little deeper in, the one that’s surprising and a little weird, but also kind of makes me feel I’ve said aloud something that’s been lurking in the ethers, waiting to be put into words. And now we can work with it.

I already see your strengths. They’re in the things you’re ignoring, avoiding and counting yourself out of it. It’s human nature. My job is to help you take tiny steps so you can begin to believe in yourself again, gain confidence as you take risks, and even begin to enjoy a sense of mastery while you transform.

I believe in the therapeutic use of self, with emphasis on therapeutic. I use my life experience to form my card decks. That means that I speak from experience, the experience of mental illness, trauma and addiction, and the experience of healing from these. (I’m not healed, simply healing.) I use my clinical training to understand and validate why a suggestion may or may not be useful to others, and how to make it more universally applicable. I use my spiritual training to keep the inherent spirituality of existence in mind and to help therapists and others bridge the gap between the dry world of clinical reasoning and the heart and soul of the person sitting across from them. I use occupational therapy to include as many adaptations and allow for as much self-direction as possible.

I open myself to become a space into which ideas, wisdom, love, and encouragement can pour in and pour out. I follow the rules of improv and of morning pages: Anything goes. I write first and edit later. I listen outside the box. I commit. I show up. I have faith. I have fun. I leap when a chasm opens up, and I dare to tell it as I see it. I believe I am a channel for wisdom, and you are, too. I have committed to the practice of honing my receptivity so that I can express what is universal and help others find health.

Photo by Shunsuke Ono on Unsplash

Published by Phyllis Capanna

Phyllis Capanna, MA, OTR/L, occupational therapist and counselor, creates mental health and wellness printables to help you shift your moment in times of change.

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