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. 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, they lose their power. The cards are a hand-held physical reminder that we are not our mind states, and that we are not victims or prisoners of thoughts and feelings. This guide offers practices for working with the cards that open new ways of exploring the inner landscape, gaining new perspectives, and bringing about change on a deep level.
The animals, outfits, and backgrounds of the cards are not meant to represent any agreed-upon archetypes or cultural icons. They began as personal, intuitive 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 personal and intuitive, and that cards are meant to be used in the same spirit.
Various cultures have vastly varying symbolic meanings for different colors or animals, and the cards avoid assigning traditional definitions. The viewer is encouraged to remain open to their own interpretation rather than seeking to attribute outside, established, designated qualities to the subject. Trusting in an individual take on the images can uncover a deeper and more personal connection with what is revealed in the cards.
Not Too Obvious
Some oracle card decks have very specific characters, each representing a particular archetype with a clearly assigned meaning. WAN deck is not as literal, with the intention of requiring the user to apply and build skills in self-inquiry to acquire a personalized, unique, and fluid reading. By requiring the use of imagination and intuition, the cards ask users to reach inward and utilize creativity and resourcefulness to decipher meaning. 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 diverse 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 our attribute (and consequently ourselves) that keep us trapped. 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 transform it into some of our most beneficial qualities.
As some of the stories 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.
If this process gets complicated, you’re doing it wrong. A visual artist steps away from the analytical, logical part of the brain and steps into the realm of space, intuition, and chance. Your findings may be challenging because they are upsetting long-held notions and habits, but the process shouldn’t be uncomfortable because you’re racking your brain to figure things out. Let insight emerge and unfold smoothly and naturally. If it brings painful stuff, resist the temptation to grasp it with your rational mind or start planning a way out. Bewilderment is the starting point of a fundamental surrender that allows an essential understanding to unfold and arise.
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. Even denial is a mind state to embrace, and the deck has cards that represent the various ways of dismissing our dark side. Owning our denial 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.
Stay Open, Don’t Push
Using symbolism gently slides you into unlatching your subconscious. This means you don’t want to stir things in a controlling way, anticipating outcomes and expecting big payoffs. Allow the unfolding of messages and the occasional Ah Ha to surprise you while you patiently and curiously stay open to possibility. Your best stance is to take in the cards with your eyes wide, your mind open, and your scope of probabilities broad. Readings will range from funny coincidences that brighten your day to breaching walls of dark secrets. Assuming you’re certain about what you’ll find blocks new realizations and closes doorways.
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 meanings of the cards to the extent that you’ve created worry, doubt, and frustration, you’re missing the point. They are gentle guides, not in the business of inducing guilt or fear. 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.
While teaching painting, I tell students, “No thinking.” When one is feeling unsure, it is natural to want to use the analytical part of the brain to figure things out. Logic is not helpful here. In fact, it is a hindrance in this case. Trust that you do have the wherewithal to access the infinite wisdom that spreads far beyond your thinking mind.
This is not to say that the cards won’t reveal your tender spots, with the hopeful intention of widening your choices about healing them. It’s possible that one of your interpretations could make you angry or otherwise uncomfortable. See the appearance of emotions as an exciting passageway to all sorts of discoveries.
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.