A Bruja's Guide to Understanding Oracle Cards

Esoteric Esa

Many of us grew up hearing that tarot cards were evil and were warned to stay away from them. When I first stepped into the spiritual space, I wasn’t familiar with oracle cards and didn’t know the difference between oracle and tarot. From my perspective, it’s because oracle cards are a modern influence from white New Age spiritualists. It’s an influence that has crafted a new spectrum of “Americanised” brujería. Growing up, my abuela who read tarot for a living wasn’t including oracle cards in her sessions. She only read with the traditional Rider-Waite tarot deck or Spanish playing cards, las barajas españolas. When oracle cards came into my awareness, this was appealing and felt easier to grasp than the beautifully complex tarot.

What’s the Difference Between Tarot and Oracle Cards?

Oracle cards don’t follow the traditional rule of 78 cards that tarot consists of. Oracle cards can range from as few as 22 cards to as extravagantly crafted as 88 cards in total. Oracle cards primarily focus on archetype energies. They allow more room for intuitive storytelling since they feature diverse art that you won’t find within tarot. Also, oracle cards are usually bigger or smaller than the common dimensions of tarot, depending on the oracle creator. That’s because oracle cards don’t have to follow the rules of tarot. Since they’re all unique, they also add more depth and details to divination readings. Think of oracle cards like condiments or spices to the dish. They’re great for beginners who are learning to work with divination tools, especially since oracle decks usually come with descriptive guidebooks that help translate meaning built behind the oracle from its creator. This is why oracle cards are usually easier to understand than tarot, which is long, nuanced, and firmly rooted in historical definitive meaning.

What Does an Oracle Card Reading Look Like?

There’s no one-size-fits-all format or straightforward template to perform an oracle reading. An oracle reading can be as simple as pulling one card or doing something as intricate as utilising spreads. Spreads are formats that assign meanings to each card pulled, which can be helpful for those beginning their oracle journey. Most oracle guidebooks include oracle spreads recommended or curated by the oracle creator(s).

An oracle reading should be performed the same way as tarot, allowing your intuition to guide you when card pulling. You can shuffle as many times as needed. From there, decide what feels more in alignment when it comes to choosing the cards. I personally enjoy taking the cards that fly out while shuffling and use those to read. Other folks don’t take those cards and prefer choosing from the top or bottom of the deck. It’s up to you, and there is no wrong way to do it. You’ll also want to consider sitting with each card and the guidebook when you first receive an oracle as a means of building intimacy with your oracle deck. That’s what I consider relationship building with your cards by taking time to study and see what you intuitively feel when you reflect on the art and words of each card.

How to Read Oracle Cards

Oracle cards serve vast purposes. You can use them to understand daily insight, to unlock spiritual guidance, or as a vehicle to contact spiritual entities such as your ancestors and guardians. Oracle cards can arguably best be used by reminding ourselves that they are messages from the universe assisting us with tapping into higher perspectives. The more you consult with oracle cards, the stronger the energetic bond becomes between you and a deck. However, you’ll want to remember not to create spiritual codependency with oracle cards. Sometimes, I find clients become overly dependent on making life decisions based only on what clarity comes through from an oracle or tarot reading. This is where we have to check in with ourselves and remember that our logic combined with inner discernment is priority over addictive reliance on divination work such as oracle readings.

Here’s a step-by-step on how to read your own oracle cards:

Environment Is Key

Make sure the ambience is right. You have to feel comfortable and safe when reading oracles. Set the vibe of the room to help you relax. Oracle is best performed in a relaxed state and with a tranquil mind. If you’re in a rush and your thoughts are all over the place, you’ll only confuse yourself more when pulling cards. Set a candle, light your favourite incense, or sacred smudge your room and deck before setting the intention of what you want insight on.

Intention Setting

Always set an intention before you shuffle and pull cards. An intention is comparative to an objective. What is your goal with this reading? What do you wish to receive insight on? Open-ended questions are better to ask when starting out with oracle readings. Then, you’ll want to call in high vibrational energy and call in any spirit guides or protectors you work with like ancestors or God (Spirit). It’s important to set the tone of what energy you want to connect with so you can receive accurate information and messages of your highest good. You can recite an opening affirmation or prayer before shuffling and pulling.

Shuffle and Pull

This is where you add your own flair. Shuffle as many times as needed. Don’t overthink. There’s no incorrect way to shuffle cards. Practice helps you get smoother with the technique, because at first, shuffling might be awkward until you develop your style. Then, pull as many cards depending on your technique and if you’re following any card spreads to read the outcome.

A simple spread I recommend to my students is the three-card spread. Use three cards only. The first card represents the energy of the past as it relates to your intention, the second card sits in the middle representing the current energy of the intention, and the final card represents the incoming energy you need to know surrounding your intention. See below.

You can always pull additional cards known as “clarifiers.” These cards will help clarify confusion you might have or add layers to break down other cards in order to provide lengthier context. In my practice, I keep a rule of thumb not to pull more than three clarifying cards because it can trail off and create more confusion for those beginning their oracle-reading development. See below for clarifiers in visual context. I like to place clarifiers on top of the cards I am asking to receive more information about.

Where Can I Buy Oracle Cards?

There are many oracle cards in circulation at this point. I personally enjoy supporting indie deck creators, which you can find on Etsy. Keep in mind independent oracle decks are at a higher price point because they are printed and distributed by a small-business owner and don’t have access to resources that big publishing houses offer for published oracle creators.

YouTube is a great hub to search for oracle and tarot readers who often use and promote their own independent decks they’ve created. You can also visit publishing houses such as Hay House or Inner Traditions to purchase oracle decks.

The decks featured above are The Modern Spiritual Latina Oracle by Esoteric Esa (myself) and The Rose Oracle by Rebecca Campbell and Katie-Louise.

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