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What makes a good Oracle?


euripides
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euripides

What do you look for in an oracle?  I'm a long-time Tarot reader but have only a couple of oracles, bought fairly much on the basis of artwork. The absence of an established 'system' means that they sometimes feel a little artificial or arbitrary to me, so I'm a little wary of them. But it seems that breaking out of the standard formats can offer a lot of opportunities - getting rid of gender binaries and outdated power-structures, perhaps. Fully exploring other ways of organizing ideas outside of four suits or elements. 

 

I noticed someone asking for recommendations with an in-depth guidebook, and that seems important if someone is developing an entire system; they can't assume the reader will intuit relationships.

 

I think good story-telling, too - well, depending on the theme - but one of the strengths of RWS to me is its capacity to apply to such a range of human experience, to help us form narratives.

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jadegreen

The best oracles decks have cards related to a variety of experiences and emotions, not just the happy, positive ones.  A lot of oracle decks have such beautiful artwork, but the actual meanings read like a cheesy self help book, or a pep talk by some well meaning but out-of-touch person. 

 

1 hour ago, euripides said:

I think good story-telling, too - well, depending on the theme - but one of the strengths of RWS to me is its capacity to apply to such a range of human experience, to help us form narratives.

 

RWS just seems so human-focused, and it kind of makes sense, since Pamela Colman Smith had all that experience in theatre, and even advised beginner artists to look at actors in to learn about drawing posture, gestures and conveying emotion. I love that about RWS too, the narrative possibilities.  Threads of Fate oracle deck is a lot like that, even though it's more abstract and doesn't seem to have much structure.  The lack of structure is sort of freeing for me, just so long as there's enough ideas to work with.  Sort of like brainstorming, or free associating, and being as literal or as metaphorical as you like.

 

 

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euripides
2 hours ago, jadegreen said:

The best oracles decks have cards related to a variety of experiences and emotions, not just the happy, positive ones.  A lot of oracle decks have such beautiful artwork, but the actual meanings read like a cheesy self help book, or a pep talk by some well meaning but out-of-touch person. 

 

RWS just seems so human-focused, and it kind of makes sense, ...  The lack of structure is sort of freeing for me ... being as literal or as metaphorical as you like.

 

 

 

Oh yes. I mean I guess sometimes you do just want something positive, but I did experiment with that for a while, complete with stationery with motivational quotes and all that... but I think in the end all it does is put a wallpaper over things. Like anything too sweet - use sparingly.  

 

That human focus is something I'm really enjoying about the Gaian tarot. I'd love a companion oracle from that creator. 

 

I have the Universe Oracle, which has the most gorgeous astrophotography and uses principles of physics and astronomy as part of its system. It's gorgeous and I love it, but it is also very abstract. I can't find it to link to due to the more recent 'Universe Has Your Back' oracle flooding results. That looks rather sweet. 

 

I think the physical properties of an Oracle can be rather nice. Creators feel more free to experiment with dimensions, and aren't forced to do the full suite or the small deck of Trumps. I do like it when they lean toward a larger deck - I know it would be daunting to take on a full Tarot or similar-size deck, but I think you need a decent number of cards for it to work and to give the reader enough of a range of material to work with. 

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A good oracle is one that gives you a good reading that you can relate to! Like @jadegreen said they have to cover a variety of experiences and events that can happen in our lives. There are tarot decks and oracle decks which are only positive 🌞, life just isn't like that! You cannot get help or advice from a deck with all bright and sunny cards 😆. Really they are positive affirmation decks and that's all.

 

I always say pick oracle decks that fit what you want to read on and the artwork style you like. They have different themes or intentions, there are psychological decks based on Jung or spiritual decks or just really cutely themed decks.

 

The other question of course is what makes a bad oracle? For me, a lot of the really mass produced decks are just rolled out the factory and have almost identical card positions / meanings in all decks. I strongly recommend being really choosy from big production brands. They are some decks that people love but a lot of mass produced stuff rolled out to make profit. Some of my fave oracles are self-published and they have the personal touch of or link to the artist. You get their world using them 🙂 An oracle fails when it doesn't have a good enough system of it's own with different card meanings / positions or has uninspiring artwork.

 

A lot of oracles don't feature humans at all, so there is no binary or structure problems.

 

Some people make their own photo oracles, it's easy to create your own personal oracle if you ever want to.

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katrinka
13 hours ago, jadegreen said:

The best oracles decks have cards related to a variety of experiences and emotions, not just the happy, positive ones.  A lot of oracle decks have such beautiful artwork, but the actual meanings read like a cheesy self help book, or a pep talk by some well meaning but out-of-touch person. 


This.
In order to be useful, a deck needs to be balanced. It can't be one of those "No bad cards!" Doreen Virtue type things. Life is good and bad, we're good and bad, everything is good and bad - cards should be, too.

"Oracle deck" is a horrible name for most of the decks that are called that, they're actually affirmation decks. You can't really do readings with them, they only tell you things like "trust your angels" or "be confident." Tarot, Lenormand, Kippers, etc. are more deserving of being called oracles since you can actually predict things with them, but they aren't called "oracle decks." It's crazy.

 

There are only two oracle decks I've found to be useful for readings:
1. The Victorian Flower Oracle. It was designed by Karen Mahony, so yes, it works.
2. The Literary Witches. That one is very nicely done. https://fennario.wordpress.com/2019/09/06/i-hate-oracle-decks-but-not-the-literary-witches/
 

The others might be good for distraught clients - let them draw a card after an actual reading done with a more functional deck. Sometimes things like that help. But I don't consider them reading decks.

Edited by katrinka
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katrinka
11 hours ago, euripides said:

I do like it when they lean toward a larger deck - I know it would be daunting to take on a full Tarot or similar-size deck, but I think you need a decent number of cards for it to work and to give the reader enough of a range of material to work with. 

 

IME you don't need a lot if you read combinations. Lenormand only has 36 cards. There are 24 runes, and only 13 Witch's Runes. All of these work well. 😉

Edited by katrinka
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18 hours ago, euripides said:

What do you look for in an oracle?

I agree with everyone that an oracle must encompass all types of messages, both positive and negative.  I prefer a one word message because I use oracle cards along with my tarot readings.  In my own version of the Celtic Cross I use a few oracle cards.  I don't care for Doreen Virtue oracle cards, they are way too 'flowery.'  I have many oracle decks and love using them.  If I do use them for an oracle card reading I rarely use more than 3 or 4 unless I'm doing a special spread Fortuna might present in the RoC readings.  If you would like to see my cards, go to my profile in the deck collection page.  All my cards are linked to the images so you can get a good idea of the type of oracle cards I prefer. 

 

Some favorites from my list are

Cosmic Reading Cards

Shamanic Healing

Whispers of Lord Ganesha

Energy Oracle

 

Edited by Saturn Celeste
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euripides
Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, katrinka said:

"Oracle deck" is a horrible name for most of the decks that are called that, they're actually affirmation decks. 

Tarot, Lenormand, Kippers, etc. are more deserving of being called oracles since you can actually predict things with them, b

 

2. The Literary Witches. That one is very nicely done. https://fennario.wordpress.com/2019/09/06/i-hate-oracle-decks-but-not-the-literary-witches/
 

The others might be good for distraught clients ...

 

Yes - affirmation decks, that's it in a nutshell. Though I do love your idea of using them with distraught clients!  It's interesting though - the oracles of old very often told the questioners things they most certainly didn't want to hear.  

 

The Lenormand is one of the few that seem to hold onto the roots of actual prediction and insight, rejecting the self-knowledge fork that so much Tarot has gone down. I notice it has a big following here! There's something rather refreshing about its clarity and certainty and unapologetic nature.  I'm not a great fan of the art style of the Lenormand I own... I wonder if I'd get along with it better with a different style. 

 

And wow that Literary Witches is amazing. I love the concept. I'm a bit of a book nerd so... 

 

  

6 hours ago, Saturn Celeste said:

 I prefer a one word message because I use oracle cards along with my tarot readings. 

All my cards are linked to the images so you can get a good idea of the type of oracle cards I prefer. 

Some favorites from my list are

Cosmic Reading Cards

Shamanic Healing

Whispers of Lord Ganesha

Energy Oracle

 

 

I do like the one-word cards, too. 

 

Wow, you do have quite a collection, Saturn Celeste. We have quite different taste, for the most part. I do rather like the Earth Magic oracle.  I like the art and concept of the Divine Muses, too.  Collage art can be tricky. 

 

I just spent a little time looking at a fairly random selection from the AT list. My taste in art may be limiting, but I'm seeing a lot of fairies and light and not a lot of 'what does the future hold'. 

 

Edited by euripides
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I’m a oracle-sibyl oriented person! 🙂
But Lenormand, Kipper, Sibilla Italiana etc. are part of this category of decks for me; most of them have 36 cards, and 52 cards for a deck seem a maximum, so I really wouldn’t say that we need as much cards as (or even more) a Tarot deck to make a good oracle.

What makes a good oracle deck is for me the resources available regarding it, so the system (apart the artwork of the deck, and even before the artwork).

I don’t really look at modern oracle decks too for the reasons listed above.

 

I remember of a modern oracle deck I backed on Kickstarter in the past, the Arthur Rackham Oracle; gorgeous artwork of course (Arthur Rackham!), and more cards than in Tarot! The author of the deck promised during the campain that we will have a consistent LWB to read with it 🤥, but the booklet of some pages that we actually received just said to look at the images and titles for each of the cards and from there to go with the flow.

It never read well for me…

Maybe the creators of modern oracle decks are thinking that these sorts of decks are for psychics who use the cards as props. I'm not a psychic, which doesn't mean that I have no intuition at all, but no vision.

Edited by Decan
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The only oracle I use for reading is a french oracle called L'Oracle Belline. It was conceived and drawn by Le mage Edmond about 1845. 

For me a good oracle is a complete oracle. A deck which contains a wide range of positive and negative concepts in the human psyche. A deck that allows to talk about both concrete events and psychological elements and which allows the two to be intertwined. A deck that allows you to go really in depth and does not miss any area, a deck which can talk about everything. There are very few oracles of this caliber and I have only met one, although I own a large collection of oracles.

 

I apologize for the approximate quality of my English language. I am french and I read English very fluently but it's more difficult to express myself. Posting here is a good exercise for me. Please feel free to correct me or ask me if I am unclear about something 😉 .

Edited by Sybil
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I do like a 'balanced' oracle deck, of which there are few. The Wooden Oracle by skullgarden is a lovely one, with light and dark energies, that would work predictive divination too in my opinion. I ordered it an age ago and customs have held it up, I think; I hope it comes home to me soon.

In mass-market decks I think Lucy Cavendish and Jasmine Beckett-Griffith oracles do incorporate both positive and negative card meanings. I have and enjoy the Les Vampires oracle and have heard similar reviews (about a balance of positive and negative) for the other decks by this duo. I'm just waiting for those decks to be reprinted in the nice new matte cardstock.

Another oracle I have my eye on is the Lantern Oracle, which I've seen reviews of, and it seems to take itself seriously as a deck for shadow work. I don't like the art of the younger women much but I like the cards featuring older women: it's a deck that's structured into phases of life (Maiden, Mother, Guardian, Crone).

I do like one-word card title oracles, they're nice to jump off. I have the Vintage Wisdom Oracle and also an indie deck called the Duality Deck, which have one word on each card. 

For affirmational decks, I have had mixed experiences with Alana Fairchild decks, enjoying one deck and then feeling disappointed in the other, but her guidebooks do give something to work with beyond just an affirmation. There's usually suggestions for meditation and ritual, and her long guidebook messages usually have a phrase or two in there that actually strikes me as something to possibly journal about. Part of why I buy her decks is the art; she works with a variety of artists and some of their styles are lovely, so even if I end up not liking the deck so much I keep it for its art.

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katrinka
10 hours ago, Sybil said:

The only oracle I use for reading is a french oracle called L'Oracle Belline. It was conceived and drawn by Le mage Edmond about 1845. 

For me a good oracle is a complete oracle. A deck which contains a wide range of positive and negative concepts in the human psyche. A deck that allows to talk about both concrete events and psychological elements and which allows the two to be intertwined. A deck that allows you to go really in depth and does not miss any area, a deck which can talk about everything. There are very few oracles of this caliber and I have only met one, although I own a large collection of oracles.

 

The Belline is excellent. I need to get mine out again.
 

10 hours ago, Sybil said:

I apologize for the approximate quality of my English language. I am french and I read English very fluently but it's more difficult to express myself. Posting here is a good exercise for me. Please feel free to correct me or ask me if I am unclear about something 😉 .

 

Your english is fine, and it's much better than my french would be!

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22 hours ago, Sybil said:

The only oracle I use for reading is a french oracle called L'Oracle Belline. It was conceived and drawn by Le mage Edmond about 1845. 

For me a good oracle is a complete oracle. A deck which contains a wide range of positive and negative concepts in the human psyche. A deck that allows to talk about both concrete events and psychological elements and which allows the two to be intertwined. A deck that allows you to go really in depth and does not miss any area, a deck which can talk about everything. There are very few oracles of this caliber and I have only met one, although I own a large collection of oracles.

 

I apologize for the approximate quality of my English language. I am french and I read English very fluently but it's more difficult to express myself. Posting here is a good exercise for me. Please feel free to correct me or ask me if I am unclear about something 😉 .

 

I love the Belline as well! Some years ago I read online about how everyone loved it's accuracy in readings and wanted one. I found it hard to find here in the UK and so imported it in from Amazon.Fr 🙂

There are loads of English resources online but the first one I found was a hideous mistranslation from French and I would read the translated titles and think oh no! So it actually improved my old high school French working out what each card actually meant. It's a great oracle! Must use it again 🙂

 

As Katrinka said, your English is great on here, don't worry about it. There are other French people on the forum and many people on here don't have English as their first language :thumbsup:

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