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Like the original paintings before them, the cards give a label and a face to a mind state. Before they have a face, mind states can be complicated and illusive. The cards symbolically encapsulate thoughts, feelings, perspectives, habits, and all manner of phenomena of consciousness. Animating the smoky, nebulous, unconfined, hard-to-capture shadows of the mind renders them an object, making them easier to reckon with. As in the visual arts, when one can hold an idea or image apart from themselves, they can stand back from it and gain perspective.  When our mind states are named and exposed and they lose their power. The cards are a hand-held physical reminder that we are not our mind states, that we are not victims or prisoners of thoughts and feelings. Below are some reminders for working with the cards that will help you access their help with more clarity and equanimity.

Symbols

The animals, outfits, and backgrounds of the cards are not meant to represent any agreed-upon archetypes or cultural icons. They began as personal, instinctive illustrations of the familiar inner visitors of one artist. Their traits and surroundings were decided upon as events and situations of one life unfolded, a reminder that their creation was subjective and individual, and that cards are meant to be used in the same spirit.

Different cultures have diverse symbolic meanings for various animals or colors, and the cards avoid assigning traditional definitions. The viewer is encouraged to remain open to their own interpretation rather than attributing outside, established, designated qualities to the subject. Trusting in a private take on the images can uncover a deeper and more personal connection with what is revealed in the cards.

Unlike Other Cards

Using the above-mentioned cultural symbols, some oracle card decks have specific characters, each representing a particular archetype with a clearly assigned meaning. WAN deck is not as literal, requiring the user to gain trust in their own skills of interpretation and self-inquiry. They promote the use of imagination, intuition, and resourcefulness in the quest to decipher meaning, prompting a very personalized and fluid reading. Like a Rorschach Test, there are no correct interpretations. However, a user’s reading can be delightfully accurate and profound, distinctively applicable to their particular idiosyncrasies. One user may never see one card with the same meaning twice, or have a reading like anyone else’s. Interpretations are as unique and plentiful as the richness of our own personalities. 

No Right or Wrong

Like life, the cards hold images of both shadow and light. This does not mean that some cards are good and some are bad. One of the main purposes of the cards is to make friends with the inner state, whatever it is. It is the resistance and harsh judgment of the attribute (and consequently ourselves) that keep us trapped in unconscious self-doubt. The goal is to gain acceptance and compassion with even our most unpleasant traits. Cards may be defined as difficult or challenging, but their adversity does not imply that they represent evil, immoral, or shameful qualities that deserve punishment. Ideally, we see the meaning of the cards as always hopeful paths to understanding. Facing and naming our dark side can not only destroy its power, but even bring out its radiant potentiality. 

As some of the testimonies will show, even the cards that seem obvious will show themselves in new and surprising ways. One person might see the same card with three different meanings at three different times of day. And with each meaning will come a different application. With practice, assigning good and bad labels will be seen as a misunderstanding of the complexity of experience.

Humility and Simplicity

As with many tools of spiritual growth and self-inquiry, all sorts of distractions can show themselves, especially when one makes headway and sees progress. Exciting serendipities, broken habit patterns, consistently correct predictions all pave the way for the ego to take credit. When that happens one may put great stock in the cards’ power, become zealous about sharing the news, and come to count on answers that make sense and validate one’s every action. Remember not to take the cards too seriously. Hold the cards lightly, as well as all interpretations and expectations. Their power is in the balance of trusting the process and letting it go. 

No thinking

If this process gets complicated, you’re doing it wrong. New insights that challenge old notions and habits can be disquieting, but the rational mind will only muddle your dealings with them. Resist the temptation to start planning a way out of the discomfort. The process shouldn’t be made more difficult because you’re racking your brain to figure things out. Let insight emerge and unfold smoothly and naturally. Trust that you do have the wherewithal to access the infinite wisdom that spreads far beyond your thinking mind. Bewilderment is the starting point of fundamental surrender. Surrender leads to a new sphere of possibility.

Justify, Argue, Defend, Explain (JADE)

Sometimes a card will seem to point right at a troubling aspect of ourselves, and in the moment we will find it too difficult to face. We may be tempted to use JADE to worm our way out of admitting to or confronting our parts that we are ashamed of. There are cards in the deck that represent various ways of dismissing our dark side, confirming that even denial is a mind state to embrace. Owning our denial or hiding is a first step to moving through it. We don’t discard mind states any more than we discard cards in this deck. With acceptance and compassion for our “stuckness” and a desire for transformation, we’ll find it easier to stop hiding and be real with ourselves.

Levels of Consciousness

Don’t pressure yourself to be more intuitive or insightful than comes naturally. Trusting the cards, seeing connections, and grasping meaning comes easily for some, but for a good many people it must grow gradually. If you feel stumped, try saying out loud the first thing that comes to mind, no matter how silly. See if it doesn’t ring of something familiar or true, and expand on it. Having the help of someone more experienced will validate your search and encourage you to trust your quickest responses. 

Don’t Force

Using symbolism gently nudges you to unfasten your subconscious. This means you don’t want to latch onto conclusions, anticipate outcomes and expect big payoffs, all hobgoblins of the conscious mind.  Allow the unfolding of messages and the occasional Ah Ha to surprise you while you patiently and curiously stay open to guidance. Readings will range from funny coincidences that brighten your day to breaching walls of dark secrets. See the appearance of strong emotions as a fascinating passageway to all sorts of discoveries. Assuming you’re certain about your journey blocks new realizations and closes the door to your subconscious.    

Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

The Buddhists have a saying that goes, If you see the Buddha on the road, kill the Buddha. It sounds dramatic, but it means, don’t take anything, not even the most sacred symbols, so seriously that you lose sight of what they are pointing to. The cards are ultimately about leading you to find your own center, an unbreakable spirit at the heart of reality. If you focus on the methods and procedures of the cards to the point of creating worry, doubt, and frustration, you’re missing the point. They are gentle guides, not in the business of inducing guilt or fear or a sense of superiority. The best remedy for getting too caught up is to step back. As in the visual arts, taking a few steps back or some time off will help you gain perspective.

Spirit Animals

From the website dictionary.com, here is the definition of spirit animals:

“In certain spiritual traditions or cultures, spirit animal refers to a spirit which helps guide or protect a person on a journey and whose characteristics that person shares or embodies.”

If you are familiar with having or using a spirit animal, feel free to relate to the cards with this in mind. It is not required that you connect with the animal images in this way, but it may emerge naturally. More about animal spirits.