Divination is a practice wherein one, through ritualistic method, tries to find meaning and gain insight to answer a question or help make sense of or deal with a situation. The name implies that the found insight is given by a a deity. However, I believe that the answers and insights found are a combination of factors. We have many layers of consciousness and are often unaware of a lot of things inside our own brain. Working with a divination method can bring things to the surface. Also, the energy with which you surround yourself influences how you see things. And beyond that, I believe the universe, or even one or more entities can push things when you’re interpreting if they feel you need to know something, or take something into account.
There are so many forms of divination, but I am mostly interested in two of them: tarot/oracle decks and runes.
Tarot and Oracle Decks
Tarot is a deck of cards with a specific set of cards divided in two subsets. The full deck consists of 78 cards of which 22 numbered ones make up the major arcana and the remaining 56, split up into four suits, are the minor arcana. There are many variants in design for a tarot deck, but all generally use the same terms and numberings. Oracle decks are similar but generally have different terms, different number of cards, different themes. The general idea in using them, though, is mainly identical to how you would use a tarot deck.
For a standard tarot deck, like the Rider-Waite version and direct spin-offs, there are standard interpretations of the cards. However, interpretation can differ from deck to deck as the individual designs evoke different feelings and insights. Plus, I’m notoriously bad at remembering the standard meanings, and don’t like to continuously consult a book or booklet. So for me, a more organic reading feels better.
Oracle decks are generally already built for a more organic reading, and I think that’s why I like them. There is no implied ‘right’ way to read a card. Plus since they lack the constraint of the standardized tarot deck, they can be in literally any theme you can think of.
The use of a deck is also varied. You can pull a single card from the deck as a card-of-the-day type thing or have an elaborate layout to answer questions or process complicated situations. I prefer simple spreads because I like to ponder over the result and extrapolate from there. So card-of-the-day things, or maybe a basic three card spread in a past-present-future setup. There, the first card details what came before the current situation, the second indicates what’s up at the moment, and the third card gives insight in what might happen.
It’s important to have clear, before you start a spread, what the function of each place in the layout is. If you use the aforementioned three-card one, you need to narrow down what exactly you need it to show. Because ‘the past’ and ‘the future’ are too broad. If, for example, you feel stressed out at work, you can define the past-card as ‘what is the root cause of the stress’, the present-card as ‘what is currently the main thing keeping me stressed’ and then define the future-card as ‘what do I need to focus on to get past the stress’ . While not strictly foretelling a future here, it can give you insight into what to do in the future to help your current situation. Extrapolating, you can build a spread to suit your question or situation.
As such, tarot isn’t so much ‘telling the future’ as it is a tool to help you understand yourself, your situation, your life.
I’m a very minor collector of decks. I don’t have as many as I would like, but good decks can be pricey. I started out with a regular Rider-Waite deck, bought in my teens during my first steps on the pagan road. For years that was the only deck I had. I used it occasionally. It’s only been the last year or two that I’ve gotten more interested, even though I still don’t read as much as I’d like. But step by step we also get where we go. I have in that last two years acquired more decks, and it’s fun to see that each has its own vibe and different decks fit different moments, questions or feelings.
I’m currently eyeing this oracle deck. I bought her tarot deck in the same style in her previous kickstarter and it is fabulous.
Runes fascinate me because they are also an alphabet. And languages in all their forms are like magic unto itself to me. Plus, they have this long history, which is another passion of mine. Runes were in use among Germanic tribes in the first couple centuries of the common era and evolved in form. In Scandinavia the Elder Futhark was simplified into the Younger Futhark with less characters, while Frisians and Anglo-Saxons did the opposite: they created the Futhorc which had more characters.
Every rune isn’t just a letter, it is also a word. And from and through that, it derived meaning. The runes were used as signs and charms, ascribed magic powers they got imbued with it. They were also used for divination by throwing them on a piece of white cloth and then taking a number of them and interpreting their meanings together.
As such, they are still used today. However, since very little is known about how the divination was done exactly, there are different interpretations on how to do this. Some people use runes in a way that is similar to tarot/oracle decks in that they use spreads and layouts where runes are placed as they are drawn and then interpreted according to the layout. I, however, prefer to use casting whereby I throw the lot of them on a cloth.
I then take the ones that fell blind (since the rune is only on one side) out, as they don’t count for that casting. I also take apart the ones that fell outside the cloth, or the shape that I’m using. Depending on the question, these runes either get interpreted as being outside influences, or also get discarded. The remaining, open, runes get interpreted together.
A quicker method, for a simple draw if you have little time or a simpler question is to cast your runes as above. Discard the blind ones and the ones outside the perimeter and then grab three at random from the remaining open ones to interpret. You can also use a daily rune draw as a motivator or power word for the day.
If you want a middle ground between casting and spreads, you can construct a pattern with different areas and then cast the runes on to that. This allows you to interpret groups of runes together, as they apply to the area they fall in.
In the end, for both systems, it’s important to do what feels right for you. Only you can tell what does and does not work for you.