Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Reclaiming the Sealskin: oracle cards?

I've just enjoyed a good heart-to-heart with a friend of mine, at St Martin in the bullring's cafe. I really appreciated hearing about how she has been using the cards in Reclaiming the Sealskin as a way for people to reflect on issues in their lives and go deeper into them.
'Oracle Cards' are very popular these days, they were just taking off around the time this book came out in 2002. I hesitate to call mine 'oracle' cards really, they are simply cards for reflection and contemplation, and the book contains guidance notes on what the cards could represent. The reflections are biblically rooted and refer to passages of scripture and Christian tradition, as well as reflecting on the natural world and folklore.
It always interests me what people do with the cards. The most touching story was of a priest friend of mine, now sadly no longer with us, who worked as a chaplain in a challenging setting and put a card in his pocket to 'accompany' him during the day. I loved the idea of being able to give quiet companionship.
Sometimes specific cards are chosen deliberately, sometimes randomly, perhaps just one, or two, or three ... and people often remark on how appropriate the pictures are to their situation. They also appeal to people who are on the edges of faith, as spiritual seekers, who would not necessarily identify as Christian. As such, they have been used at Mind Body Spirit fairs here and there, which I find really encouraging.

My feeling is, that we tend to be very word-orientated and very cerebral, so when we encounter pictures instead, they can help us to think in a deeper symbol language, the language of our dreams and of the unconscious. Seeing pictures like this often mirrors or triggers something deep inside us.
We are also, some say, meaning makers, and many of us do tend to see connections and look for ways in which things are personally relevant to us. So I don't see anything spooky or alarming going on, it's just the intuitive and sensitive way the human mind is, which if given freedom and opportunity, can help us to tap into our own deeper 'knowing'. If used in a spiritual accompaniment setting, or while praying about or reflecting on concerns, thay can help to focus or clarify the mind, with or without the notes in the book. Some might say that God is helping the process by intervening in the random selection, but that's a matter of opinion.
People have believed that God speaks by interrupting randomness in such ways for centuries. The biblical precedent is the priestly urim and thummim, which are now lost , but were used to 'inquire of the Lord' (e.g. Exodus 28:30).

What I would want to emphasise, is that my reflections are just that: suggestions, pointers, thoughts, but with no pretention whatsoever  to divine revelation. So if you have a hunch about a picture, it means what you want it to mean in that moment, my text is simply a companion voice in the background, which you can ignore or use to develop your own ideas as you wish.

At the time of writing, it just so happens that Reclaiming the Sealskin is on sale at a reduced price, on the Wild Goose Publications website, so now's a good time to make your own mind up about the cards!

unknown sculptor
‘But ask the animals, and they will teach you;
   the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you;
   and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know
   that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing
   and the breath of every human being'
Job 12:7-10 NRSV

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